Support Pours In For Rookey Family

                                    Governor Cuomo Directs Flags To Half-Staff
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Friday in honor of a New York soldier who died in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sunday.

Spec. Kyle R. Rookey of Oswego died in a non-combat related incident. He was a member of the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team. The division is based at Fort Carson, Colo.

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my condolences to the friends, family and fellow soldiers of Specialist Rookey,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will mourn his death, but we will remember his service to our nation with pride.”

Cuomo has directed that the flags on all state buildings be lowered to half-staff in honor of and in tribute to our state’s service members and those stationed in New York who are killed in action or die in a combat zone.

OSWEGO, NY – The outpouring of support from the Oswego community and beyond has been amazing, according to the parents of Spc. Kyle R. Rookey.

The 23-year-old Oswego native died Sunday in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, according to a brief statement from the Department of Defense.

The death was the result of “a non-combat related incident.”

He entered the Army on March 3, 2010, and joined his current unit on Jan. 7, 2011.

Spc. Kyle R. Rookey
Spc. Kyle R. Rookey (US Army photo)

Kyle was assigned to the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. He was deployed to Afghanistan on March 10, 2012.

He received the following awards:

National Defense Service Medal – 1
Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Bronze Service Star – 1
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon – 1

“It’s just been amazing. The outpouring of support that George and I have received is simply amazing,” said the soldier’s mother, Carol.

Many of his friends have been posting memorials on their Facebook pages, using a lot of the sayings that Kyle liked to use all the time, she added.

Kyle just turned 23 in February.

“He cared about everybody,” his mother said. “He wanted to make everybody happy. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

T.J. Bandla, Theatre Tech Director, said he remembers Kyle from marching band and his days working as part of the tech crew in the theater for various productions.

“It’s just tragic,” he said. “It’s very, very sad. He was on the tech crew all during high school. He was a great kid, totally. He and his wife visited in December, during concert season, with their baby. They came backstage to say hello and we all got to meet the baby.”

Kyle made you smile and made you laugh, he said, adding, “That’s the way you want to be remembered.”

Bandla remembers Kyle as smiling all the time.

“When you were around him, you couldn’t help but smile,” he said. “We’re circling the wagons. What ever the family needs, we will do our best to help them. Besides being a valuable member of our Technical Theatre Crew, he was a kid who walked in to the theatre smiling – every day. Your spriits couldn’t help but be lifted when he was in the room. He was clever and funny, humble and helpful.  We’ll miss him.”

When the marching band did the Gettysburg show years ago, they took “a great photo” of Kyle playing Taps at the monument for the 147th New York Infantry, Bandla said.

Marching band director Stephen Defren agreed.

Kyle playing Taps at the monument for the 147th New York Infantry
Kyle Rookey playing ‘Taps’ at the monument for the 147th New York Infantry during a marching band trip his senior year at OHS

“We took this photo of Kyle playing “Taps” at the “Oswego” Memorial at Gettysburg when we went there in the fall of 2006,” he said. “I had trouble sleeping last night with the start of the school year; I remembered this moment, one of the most memorable of that trip. “Now, I have to hear someone play that at his funeral.  Surreal…”

Kyle was a senior during Defren’s first year teaching in Oswego.

“He was a kind individual who was very dedicated to our band program. He worked hard every day to improve and he cared very deeply for his family, his friends and his country,” Defren said. “I am stunned and deeply saddened by this tragedy and offer my condolences to his family for their loss.”

A framed copy of that photo is hanging on the wall of the Rookey’s Oswego home, his mother noted.

“It’s great that he actually got to do what he loved,” she said. “When he was little, anything he could get his hands on, he’d pretend it was a plane. He would pretend to fly it all over.”

In the Army, he flew Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, she said.

“He flew the small ones, with the really expensive cameras, for reconnaissance missions,” she said.

Recently, one of the other “pilots” crashed a UAV in the mountains. Kyle volunteered to go and retrieve the pieces of the camera, his mother said.

“He enjoyed long-distance running so he volunteered,” she said. “Just liked helping other people.”

Oswego Middle School principal Mary Beth Fierro was a math teacher of Kyle’s,

“Kyle was a pleasure to have in class  – always had a smile on his face and a story to share,” she said. “My heart goes out to his family. He was a great young man.”

“Kyle was a kind and thoughtful student. He engaged his classmates as well as faculty with humor and respect,” said Thomas Altman, college physics teacher. “Attentive in class, he was also social with diverse interests.”

Pete Myles, was principal at the time Kyle was at OHS. “I was shocked this morning when I first heard of Kyle being killed while serving in Afghanistan. I remember meeting Kyle for the first time when he was a freshman at OHS and finding him very personable and likable. His death is a tragedy and my heart goes out to his mother, wife and child, his extended family and friends.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.

Kyle will arrive back in Oswego County later this week; and receive a full military escort and guard to the funeral home.

The Oswego County Sheriff’s Department will also participate in the escort, his mother said.


  1. You don’t know me, but I am still SO sorry to hear of your loss. Please allow your community to hold you near in this time of sorrow, so many of us you don’t know personally.

    To his wife and child, you have a true hero to hold with your memories. I know you can’t get over this, it’s something that remains forever. But it will be the good times, and this new baby that you have to move forward with. And for those friends and family who share your grief with you through the years. Allow them to help you when they can.

    God bless you. My child served twice in Iraq, so I understand some (a small, small part) of all this…


  2. Carol~

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Please know that I am hear if you need anything. Also please know that my family and I are very thankful for your son fighting for our country. After reading this article I couldn’t help but think that your son took after you because you were always so genuine and always smiling. I love you Carol and my prayers are with you and your family.

  3. I was in sixth grade when I first met Kyle who was starting out in Kindergarten, we both attended Minetto Elementary School and rode the same bus. Often times, we were seat buddies. Just as he was when he was an adult, back then, he was always happy and very caring. I never heard any complaints coming from Kyle. He was happy to share with me what happened during the day and everything he spoke of was big! We would read together and just imagine. To me, I was just happy to share a seat with this very special kid who would one day amount to something wonderful. He will be missed, this I am sure. I am happy that I had the chance to get to know Kyle, even if it was for a very short time. I know I will not forget the smile that he used to have.

  4. So very sorry for you loss of a fine gentleman and soldier. God bless you and thank you for your service Kyle.

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