Lester O. Kinney II – Staff Sergeant, United States Army

No. 060-04
Jan 29, 2004

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The three Combined Joint Task Force Seven soldiers were killed in an improvised explosive device attack on January 27, 2004, near Iskandariyah.  Killed were:

Secon Lieutenant Luke S. James, 24, of Oklahoma.
Staff Sergeant Lester O. Kinney II, 27, of Zanesville, Ohio.
Kinney and Luke were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Sergeant Cory R. Mracek, 26, of Hay Springs, Nebraska.  Mracek was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

The incident is under investigation.

Community celebrates life of local fallen soldier
8 February 2004

SOUTH ZANESVILLE, OHIO — About 150 community members gathered together Saturday morning to say goodbye to a very brave man.

A memorial service was held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the South Zanesville United Methodist Church for Staff Sgt. Lester O. “Buddy” Kinney II, who was killed while serving with the United States Army in Iraq January 27, 2004.

As mourners made their way into the church, they passed photos of Kinney in his dress blues, with his wife Marisa outside their home and in uniform proudly serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. United States flags and eagles decorated the altar. In the background, bluegrass music from the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack filled the air, the quiet strains of banjos and guitars both sad and joyous at the same time.

Kinney's mother and stepfather, Barbara and Jack Lloyd, sat at the front of the church with Kinney's wife Marisa, his brother Kurtis Bennett and his sister Jodi Lloyd. Mourners, including Congressman Bob Ney, stopped to exchange hugs and kind words with the family.

The Rev. Joy E. W. French began the memorial service by sharing the 23rd Psalm, one of Kinney's favorite passages from the Bible, as well as Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, which begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: A time to be born, and a time to die … “

After French recited several passages of scripture, mourners were invited to share reflections on Kinney. Dan Hartman, with the Muskingum Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, read a letter that was written by the soldiers of the 3rd Platoon, Delta Company stationed in Iraq, who served with Kinney.

“‘We could not ask for a better friend or leader,'” Hartman read. “‘From the dusty mountains of Afghanistan to the hot flat desert of Iraq, we will always have a seat open for you.'”

Jim Perdue, Kinney's step uncle, recited “Footsteps in the Sand,” an inspirational poem written by an unknown author. In the poem, a man has a dream that he is walking with God on a beach and scenes from his life flash around him. The man notices two sets of footprints in the sand — one belonging to him and the other belonging to God. During the lowest and darkest points in his life, the man notices that there is only one set of footprints and he questions why God would have left him during his darkest hours.

God replies, “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.

During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Perdue went on to talk about the ultimate sacrifice Kinney made while serving his country.

“I wish we didn't have to have heroes, but we do,” Perdue said.

Ed Allenbaugh, a friend of Kinney's family, talked about Kinney's friendly attitude.

“Who knew that (Kinney's grandfather) Willard Reed would have picked such a fitting nickname for his first grandchild, Buddy?” Allenbaugh asked. “He was a buddy to everyone. Buddy had room for everyone. After you met him, you knew there really was good in the world.”

French ended the memorial by reminding the mourners that Kinney had a lot of love in his heart.

“The scripture reads, ‘No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends,'” French said.

After the service, Perdue said that everything from the readings to the bluegrass music were what Kinney would have wanted for himself, and that despite their loss, the family was very proud of him.

“Whether he was cutting the lawn or skiing or snowboarding, Buddy did everything a hundred plus percent,” Perdue said. “He did everything to the fullest.”

Perdue added that Kinney had been content in Afghanistan, but had reservations about serving in Iraq.

“He knew this was dangerous,” Perdue said. “But ever since he was 8 years old, (he wanted to be a soldier.) He loved those ‘Be all you can be' ads.”

On Monday morning, Kinney's family will leave for Arlington, Virginia, for Kinney's funeral services and burial. Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, Virginia. The burial will follow at 3 p.m. in Arlington National Cemetery.

Services scheduled for 2 Bragg troops

Funeral arrangements have been made for two Fort Bragg soldiers killed by a homemade bomb Jan. 27 near Iskandariyah, Iraq.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday for Staff Sergeant Lester “Buddy” O. Kinney II, 27, in his hometown of South Zanesville, Ohio. The service will be at the South Zanesville United Methodist Church.

A funeral will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday (10 February 2004) at Murphy Funeral Home at 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia. Burial will be at 3 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery.

A memorial service for Second Lieutenant Luke S. James, 24, of Oklahoma, will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday (10 February 2004) at Arlington Funeral Home. Burial will be at Arlington at 11 a.m.

Kinney and James were assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Services were held in Nebraska last week for Sergeant Cory R. Mracek, who also died in the incident.

Mracek, 26, of Hay Springs, Neb., was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.

31 January 2004:

Lester ‘Buddy' Kinney was hero and mentor to younger brother

Photo of Lester ‘Buddy' Kinney taken by a fellow soldier in Afghanistan.
Photo of Kinney taken by a fellow soldier during a mission in Afghanistan.

SOUTH ZANESVILLE, OHIO — Staff Sergeant Lester “Buddy” Kinney II was already living his dream of serving in the military when his half brother, Kurtis Bennett, graduated from high school.

Bennett has spent his life looking up to Kinney, whom he said “will always be my hero.” So when Bennett was trying to decide what to do with his life, he didn't have to look any farther than his brother.

Now Army Specialist 4 Bennett and his family are mourning Kinney's death.

“My brother was a great man. He died doing what he loved to do,” Bennett said Friday.

Kinney was one of three U.S. soldiers killed Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near Isakandariyah, just west of Baghdad in Iraq. Kinney, a 1994 graduate of John Glenn High School, was part of the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg. He had been in Iraq only since January 14, 2004 — less than two weeks.

He had served in Afghanistan for most of 2003 and earned a Bronze Star for his role as a section leader.

Kinney is the son of Barbara Lloyd, who is on the South Zanesville Village Council.

“When I graduated in 2000, he asked me what I was planning to do. I told him I was thinking about taking a year off and then go to college,” Bennett said. “He said, ‘That's good.' He was always supportive of me,” Bennett said. “Then the recruiters called me up.”

At the time, Bennett was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds, but he decided to think about it. He again turned to his brother and told him how he was thinking about the Army or the Air Force. Kinney suggested the Army would hold more opportunities for his brother.

Bennett worked to get himself in better shape and signed up. All through his basic training Kinney was only a phone call and an encouraging word away from supporting his brother.

“Every time I got to make a phone call, I would call my mom first and then I would call my brother,” Bennett said.

When he learned of Kinney's death, he returned to Zanesville from Fort Lewis, Washington, to be here for their mother and the rest of the family.

When they were both on active duty, the brothers didn't have many opportunities to speak to each other. Bennett said it's a hard thing to look back on now.

“I talked to him the day before he left for Iraq. We talked for an hour and a half. It was one of the best conversations we had. I told him I was proud of him for everything. I told him I loved him,” Bennett said.

He described his brother as a risk taker, who learned snowboarding while being stationed in Alaska and surfing while in Hawaii.

“He was one of those guys — he hated no one. He could lighten up a party,” Bennett said.

Kinney was a paratrooper who had made 58 jumps. Bennett said he was two jumps away from 60 and getting a gold star above his parachute wings. After he returned from Iraq, he was hoping to become a Warrant Officer and train to be a helicopter pilot.

The Army was his life, and he planned to make a career of it.

Those who knew Kinney will remember the smile that never left his face. Every picture the family has shows Kinney smiling — not because it was a picture, but because it was his nature, Bennett said.

The brothers were as close as they could be.

Kinney became the male figure in Bennett's life when his father, and Kinney's stepfather, died. Bennett was 12 and Kenny was 17. It was a traumatic time for both, but when Bennett looks back and thinks of his brother it's a moment from that time which will always stay with him.

It happened when they were on their way to the funeral.

“I was in the back seat of his car. I'm crying and I remember he moved the rearview mirror so he could look at me,” Bennett said. “I remember his eyes. In his eyes he was telling me I'll be OK. He was telling me I'm here for you.”

In a statement from Marisa Kinney, Lester Kinney's wife, and the family, they thank Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and South Zanesville for support.

“Buddy was a great soldier, a great husband, and a hero to many. We are proud that he served our country with valor and courage. We will continue to pray that all the men and women of our armed forces will come home safely and we want to express our deep gratitude and appreciation for their commitment to our country and the sacrifices their families make to support them.”

There will be a memorial service for Kinney at South Zanesville United Methodist Church. The date has not been set. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Kinney is the second area soldier killed in Iraq. Army Private First Class Gavin L. Neighbor, 20, of Somerset, also with the 82nd Airborne Division. He was off work from guard duty in Baghdad on June 10, 2003, and had been resting on a bus when a rocket propelled grenade round was fired from a nearby house.

A year without a son
Parents of soldier killed in Iraq mark solemn anniversary
By Kathy Thompson

The Weeping Cherry Tree planted in memory of Staff Sergeant Lester O. Kinney II by his mother, Barbara Lloyd of Zanesville, is the perfect place for her and members of the Kinney family to go for comfort and solace. The tree was planted in South Zanesville Village Park in June 2004 by Lloyd.

To find some comfort and peace, Barbara Lloyd visits a Weeping Cherry tree in South Zanesville Village Park.

The tree, planted by Lloyd in June, is in memory of her son, Staff Sgt. Lester “Buddy” O. Kinney II, who was killed in Iraq one year ago today.

Kinney was with the 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne Division when he was killed by a roadside bomb that exploded near Isakandariyah, just west of Baghdad. A 1994 graduate of John Glenn High School, he had been in Iraq fewer than two weeks.

Lloyd and her family are going to spend this day together and quietly.

“It's been a very rough year,” Lloyd said. “We've had a lot bad news this past year, and we're trying to look ahead to this new year and hope for good things to come.”

Lloyd has had a difficult time coping with the death of her son — especially since she has another son fighting in Iraq.

Army Specialist 4 Kurtis Bennett, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington, left for Iraq in October. He is expected to return in February for a two-week leave. Lloyd beams when she talks about the trip she and her husband will make to Washington to visit with Bennett and his wife.

“That's a big bright spot in our life right now,” Lloyd said Wednesday. “They are expecting a baby in June, and we just found out today that the baby is a boy. We are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves.”

The baby is not only due in June, but is due June 13. That number has very special meaning to Lloyd.

“It was Buddy's favorite number,” Lloyd explains. “Any sport he played, any number he wanted for a special event, it was 13. We know this is a sign. It has to be.”

Lloyd said having Buddy's wife, Marisa, still close to the family has helped tremendously.

“We saw Marisa, who lives just outside Washington D.C., at Thanksgiving,” Lloyd said. “She came and spent the entire holiday with us, and it was almost like having Buddy with us too. Those two were inseparable.”

Lloyd has visited her son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, which eases her mind.

“I hate it that he is so far away, though,” Lloyd says softly. “I hate it that I can't hear his voice, touch him or just pick up the phone and tell him about my day. I hate every minute of it.”

Planting the tree in the park has given Lloyd some comfort. Lloyd picked the Weeping Cherry because the limbs have a tendency to bend downward and in the spring. It has double pink blossoms.

“It's almost like it's shading the plaque and that's shading him,” Lloyd said. “The limbs look like they're pointing toward the plaque saying come and see who I'm planted for. Come see the love that lies here.

“If I feel a need to be near him, I go and visit the tree,” Lloyd explained. “We put a little fence around it and I have to tell you, everyone has been so respectful of that. That means so much to me. I know it would mean a lot to Buddy. He was one of the most respectful and kind person you would ever want to meet.”

In the past year, Lloyd has found she is unable to do some of the things she used to take great pride in doing — like playing Taps for veterans funerals.

“I played the trumpet in school, and I really enjoyed doing that,” Lloyd said. “It was just that I was doing something out of respect and love for those that served our country. Now, well now I can't bear to hear them played. It's so haunting. Ever since they played them for Buddy, I just haven't been able to sit through it.”

Lloyd's sister, Karen Crawford of Dresden, said Lloyd has been the strength the family has drawn on during the past year.

“She's just so brave,” Crawford said. “We all miss Buddy so much. It's like a part of our soul has been ripped from us, but Barbara keeps us going. I know she's torn apart inside, and yet, she has a smile for us — just like Buddy would.”

Lloyd does have a “little Buddy” to help the tears in her heart.

For her birthday this past December, her husband bought her a Chow puppy.

Sitting in a living room in northern Ohio filled with jumping, rambunctious balls of black fur, Lloyd said one little puppy kept running between her and her husband.

“I told him then that it was a sign. On the ride over we had been talking about Buddy,” Lloyd smiled. “So, we took her and named her Buddy's Angel Girl.

“It's like she's my angel — just like Buddy was,” Lloyd said.

Posted on Thu, Feb. 10, 2005
Monica Yant Kinney | War widow, 19, takes baby steps
By Monica Yant Kinney
Inquirer Columnist

In December, one day after Army officers knocked on Melissa Mahlenbrock's door with news that her husband had died in the line of duty in Iraq, they stopped by again.

This time, the officers brought monetary condolences, in the form of a $12,000 military death-benefit check.

And so began a 19-year-old war widow's ride on the wheel of misfortune, a game she never wanted to play.

Strangers call from bars offering to host beer-drinking tournaments in the name of her husband, Dave. Mourners stuffed so many checks into sympathy cards at Dave's funeral that Melissa figured that's what people always do when someone dies.

As a war widow, Melissa supports President Bush's plan to increase death benefits for soldiers' families. She just can't think of any amount that could make her feel whole again.

She's sitting on an overstuffed chaise with the tag still hanging from an arm, in the house she just bought in Maple Shade.

“Absolutely none of this replaces what I lost,” Melissa says, cuddling Kadence, the couple's 4-month-old daughter. “It's just money. It helps.”

“I'd much rather be poor again and be with my husband.”

Ahead of their time

To hear her talk about 529 college savings plans and the benefits of buying vs. renting, it's easy to forget she's still a kid.

You grow up fast when you're married at 18, have a baby at 19, and start collecting Social Security and retirement checks before you can legally drink a beer.

High school sweethearts, she and Dave married quickly when he got word he would be sent into combat. The wedding feast? Dinner for two at McDonald's. The groom had a Big Mac; the bride, a chicken sandwich.

“It was all we could afford,” she says without a hint of regret. “We knew what we were getting into.”

That was August 2003. Five months later – just a few days before Melissa learned she was pregnant – Dave left for Iraq.

Given his line of work, they prepared for the worst. An enlisted man, Dave took out the maximum life insurance policy, $250,000, the Army offered. He told Melissa he'd want a military funeral. They drew up a will.

At home on leave in the fall after Kadence was born, Dave inadvertently picked out the black dress his little girl would wear to bury her daddy.

“We were at Babies R Us,” Melissa recalls, “and he said, ‘If she ever has to go to a funeral, get this.' “

When the time came, Melissa bought the dress but chose a free Army casket and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

The $12,000 check went in the bank.

Money for nothing

After months of bunking with her parents, it was time for Melissa and Kadence to get a place of their own.

Melissa didn't want to waste a cent on rent, so she contacted an Army Realtor, applied for a Veterans Affairs loan, and bought a house around the corner from her grandma, a few blocks from Dave's dad.

The house has a basement, which Dave always wanted.

The couches have attached cushions, as per his wishes.

She found a wicker bed at Ikea and a khaki-and-blue comforter to complete the “light and airy” bedroom motif Dave fantasized about in calls home from the war zone.

And since he envisioned a Disney princess theme for Kadence's room, Melissa got that, too.

Her husband may have been a soldier, she says, but “he loved interior decorating.”

“I look around the house, and it's as if Dave's here next to me.”

Only he's not, which is made painfully clear every time the phone rings.

The Coastline Restaurant & Bar and the Silver Diner, both in Cherry Hill, have sponsored benefits for her and the baby. Next month, a bar in Maple Shade will hold a “Beer Pong” tournament in Dave's name. A gym in Moorestown is doing a “workout-athon.”

Whatever comes in, Melissa puts away for Kadence. The Mahlenbrocks are a family of planners, after all.

And even at 19, Melissa knows that families and plans can change with a single knock at the door.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 01/27/1999 – 01/27/2004
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 02/28/1976
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/27/2004
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 02/10/2004



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