Kevin Michael Shea
Lieutenant Colonel,United States Marine Corps
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Sep 15, 2004
Media Contact: Marine Corps Public Affairs - (703) 614-4309 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Major Kevin M. Shea, 38, of Washington, D.C., died September 14, 2004, due to enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
For further information related to this Marine
contact the Camp Pendleton Public Affairs Office at (760) 725-5044.
Rocket fire kills Marine major
Major Kevin Shea was killed in an attack near Fallujah.
Last month Major Kevin Shea, a Marine fighting in Iraq, was nominated for a Bronze Star with Valor. But he never told his family.
"That goes to his character, how modest he was," said Major Shea's brother, Dan.
Kevin Shea was killed Tuesday by rocket fire in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, near Fallujah. It was his 38th birthday.
A 1984 graduate of Seattle's Bishop O'Dea High School, Major Shea graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy before joining the Marines. While at the academy, he lettered in football, played in the 1987 Freedom Bowl and was a member of the academy's 1989 rugby team, which won the collegiate national championship.
He fought in the Gulf War, taught and coached rugby at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was promoted to the rank of major in 1999 and earned a master of science degree in electrical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in California.
Major Kevin Shea, 38, nominated for a Bronze Star, will be posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Major Shea was to return to his home in California in November, with a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.
"We thought he'd turned the corner in terms of risk," said Dan Shea. "But from Day One there was risk, and he knew it."
Dan Shea said his brother will be posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and will be the highest-ranking Marine to have died in the Iraq war.
While at O'Dea, Major Shea played football and was named to the all-Metro team as a senior.
"In the past 48 hours I've been humbled with thoughts about what a great man he was," said O'Dea classmate Joe Bundrant of Edmonds. "Kevin was special. Strong and powerful, a tender warrior."
O'Dea held its 20th reunion this summer, and Major Shea was unable to attend. But Bundrant passed out pictures of Major Shea and his family.
"He started out as a pudgy freckle-faced kid and worked his way into a giant with hard work," Bundrant said.
He said the school is hoping to organize a memorial for him at O'Dea and a fund to help his family.
Earl Hanley, an O'Dea teacher who is involved with alumni relations, said he knew Major Shea well.
"He was an outstanding young man," he said. "An effective leader, good student and mature solid young man."
He was shown a photo of Major Shea at the O'Dea reunion. "You never think for a moment tragedy would come so soon."
Besides his brother Dan, Major Shea is survived by his wife, Ami, and two children, ages 10 and 7; his parents, Bill and Eileen Shea, and his brother Tom, all of Washington, D.C.
Dan Shea said his brother will be buried at
Arlington National Cemetery.
SEATTLE, Washington - Major Kevin Shea was big man, he stood 6' 4" and weighed 220 pounds. He was a graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Gulf War veteran.
But he had a softer side.
"We called him the gentle giant because he was so big and imposing," said Alison Shea, the Major's sister-in-law. "He was a real softy, a great dad with a great sense of humor. He was just a great guy."
Major Shea was being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He was coming home for a command at Camp Pendleton. He'd be close to his wife and two young children.
But on his 38th birthday, he was hit by rocket fire near Fallujah.
It was a devastating blow to his family.
"He was the big brother," says Alison Shea. "We really looked up to him. It's a loss than none of us are ever going to get used to."
Shea's former teacher at Bishop O'Dea High School in Seattle remembers him as the real package -- smart, accomplished and one heck of an athlete. But it was his gentleness that resonated.
In an email, a classmate described him as "a much needed gentle soul in an area where hatred is trying to carry the day."
"I remember him as a freckled and pudgy freshman," says Early Hanley quoting an email from a classmate. "By the time he graduated he was a star defensive lineman. But he never picked on anyone."
Hanley also remembers an email from Major Shea when he couldn't make the class reunion.
"Kevin finished with saying 'take care of yourself and tell the old gang sorry about missing the reunion,'" recalls Hanley. "It must be the old Irish luck again."
Major Kevin Shea will be buried at Arlington
I was reading Saturday's Washington Post, and 14 pages into the main news section was this headline: "Blasts Kill Six Marines in Western Iraq." It was far from front-page news, nothing as spectacular as an earthquake or a flood, just more roadside bombs adding to a steady stream of U.S. military war dead.
Such events were starting to feel almost routine, so I telephoned William and Eileen Shea for a reality check. It's useful to be in touch with people who have lost loved ones in these wars, if only to remember what being at war really means.
Major Kevin Shea, the eldest of their three sons, was killed Sept. 14, 2004, while fighting in Iraq's Anbar province.
"It feels like it happened yesterday," Eileen Shea told me.
William Shea said: "It was his 38th birthday. We'd been having a good interaction through e-mails and occasional telephone calls, then all of a sudden we get the news that he was killed."
The Sheas live in Northwest Washington. William Shea is a retired federal investigator with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. He volunteers as a coach for the freshman football team at his high school alma mater, St. John's College High.
Eileen Shea is a nurse who has devoted her life to helping others, her sons most of all.
The couple belong to the Compassionate Friends, a national support group for parents coping with the loss of a child. They know from commiserating with other grieving parents that no one's pain is greater than another's. A loss is a loss. "The pain is the same," Eileen Shea said.
And yet, military troops alone are duty-bound to die, if necessary, anywhere in the world, for their country. And their country is duty-bound, as well, to make sure their deaths are not in vain.
But here we are, more than two years after the United States invaded Iraq, more uncertain than ever about what we are doing and why we are there. Most Americans believe that the cost in blood and money has been too high.
As of yesterday, 1,948 U.S. military personnel had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 14,902 wounded, since the war began in March 2003. In Iraq, 105 U.S. civilians have been killed, and as many as 29,653 Iraqi civilians.
You can find Kevin Shea's portrait featured in an exhibition of artists' works, "Faces of the Fallen," at Arlington National Cemetery until the end of the year. It is a seemingly endless display of the 1,300 or so U.S. service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- between October 10, 2001, and November 11, 2004
"You think as time goes by, it'll get better," Eileen Shea said. "But it's just emptiness and sadness. Thank God I'm a religious person. And there better be a heaven, because I do a lot of talking to my son up there."
Eileen Shea opposed the war from the start but has tended to keep her concerns private. You won't find her participating in antiwar demonstrations. On the contrary: She and her husband are expected to be at the Marine Corps Marathon this month, cheering from the sidelines as sons Tom, 37, who lives in Germantown, and Dan, 33, who lives in Seattle, team with Ami, her widowed daughter-in-law, to make the run in Kevin's honor.
Kevin was a graduate of the Air Force Academy. He taught electrical engineering and coached the rugby team at the U.S. Naval Academy before joining the Marines. He and Ami lived near Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps base in California, and have two children: a daughter, 12, and a son, 8.
Kevin did not fit the profile of many young men from the District who go into the military with hopes of getting the jobs and education promised by recruiters. All he wanted was to serve his country and protect his fellow Marines. His nomination for the Bronze Star with valor is testament to how well he did both jobs. "He'd always been our hero," William Shea said.
I asked Eileen Shea whether she had seen the article about the six dead Marines in The Washington Post. She had. "It's buried in there," she said. But that didn't mean it wasn't important to her. Or that it shouldn't be for everybody else.
Posted: 18 September 2004 Updated: 29 September 2004 Updated: 4 October 2004 Updated: 4 December 2004 Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 22 October 2005
Updated: 17 October 2007 Updated: 14 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo By: M. R. Patteson, October 2007
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 2 December 2004