WINDSOR TERRACE – A previously unnamed green space across from the Prospect Expressway has been dedicated to the memory of a hometown hero.
The public space located where East 5th and Vanderbilt Streets meet in Windsor Terrace was recently cleaned up by the Eagle Scouts and named Captain John McKenna IV Park.
Hundreds of neighbors flocked to the outdoor space Saturday morning where NYC Parks Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher, Senator Kevin Parker (District 21), Assembly Member Robert Carroll, and members of the U.S. Marines Corps, New York State and New York City Police, the Fire Department of New York, and many other local leaders and groups dedicated the park to the memory of Captain McKenna who grew up in the neighborhood and lost his life while serving his country.
Born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, Captain McKenna grew up on East 2nd Street, attended the nearby Immaculate Heart of Mary Grammar School and Bishop Ford High School, and served the community as a member of the Eagle Scout’s Troop 14.
After graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in history, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant in 1998. He received many honors for his military service, including the Silver Star and a Purple Heart. “John spent six years in the Corps which included a tour of Afghanistan and Iraq, but in wanting to be closer to his family and friends, he decided to leave the Marine Corps and become a New York State Trooper,” John McKenna III said while sharing memories of his son at Saturday’s event. “As John would say, ‘Troopers represent many of the same values of service and sacrifice held by the Marines. They embody teamwork, brotherhood, and sacrifice to serve the people who need them.'”
Captain McKenna became a New York State Trooper in August 2005 while continuing to serve as a Marine Corps reserve officer. In February 2006, his unit was called to duty in Iraq. Despite having already served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Captain McKenna insisted on joining his team. He was killed in action in Fallujah on August 16, 2006 trying to save Lance Corporal Michael Glover who was mortally wounded during an ambush.
“John McKenna was a real American hero,” said Senator Parker. “We really could do no better service to his life and legacy but to name this park after him, to be a symbol and a beacon of hope and inspiration to the entire community, to the entire borough, to the entire city…. As Americans we oftentimes take our liberties and our freedom for granted. John did not do that either as a marine or as a trooper, so we thank him for giving the ultimate sacrifice and we honor his memory today.”
“So often when we talk about people, talk about leadership, and talk about service, we look to people whose names are in a paper, we look to people whose names are on a ballot, we look to people who we know,” added Assembly Member Carroll, who also grew up in Windsor Terrace. “Unfortunately, that is not usually where service or leadership is found. It’s usually found in selfless people who make sacrifices for themselves and their country and their community, and that’s what John has done.”
Captain McKenna’s funeral was the largest in the history of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, filled with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues paying respect and saying farewell to a local hero. “This young man, my son, who lived life to the full, helping others who could not help themselves, holding on to his faith, his life, his family, his friendships and commitments with two fists and a full heart, lived Lincoln’s words, ‘With malice toward none, with charity to all.’ Yeah, he was a hero,” said McKenna III.
“When you’re in this neighborhood, come, sit down on one of these benches in the Captain John McKenna IV Park and think about John,” he continued. “Think about Mike Glover. Also think about all the sacrifices made by all our warriors in foreign lands and the sacrifices at home made by our local police, state troopers, fire fighters, and medical emergency personnel. We owe it to them to remember what they do for us.”