In praise of a hero

Joseph Kaczmarek/For the Daily News

This story was a bit buried in today's paper, but I hope some of you will take time to read it now.

In June, we first wrote about Kevin McCloskey, a 21-year-old Mayfair guy who lost both his legs fighting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Kevin's story generated quite a bit of goodwill in the city and around the country. For a lot of people, he became the face of a conflict that has been somewhat forgotten in the shadow of the Iraq War. (To read the first story, click here.)

Kevin's prognosis was pretty grim in the weeks that followed. Amazingly, he fought through countless infections and setbacks and charted a recovery course all his own. Doctors told his family that with some luck, Kevin could make it home, on prosthetics, by Christmas. He made it back on Halloween. It was something of an honor for me to finally meet Kevin last week and tell his story again:

Yet when a black limousine eased to a stop on Princeton Avenue near Charles Street on Oct. 31, McCloskey emerged in Army fatigues, slender and healthy.

He stood - crutches under his arms, and prosthetic legs hidden under his fatigues - and faced the crowd. Five months' worth of sadness and worry shared by his family, friends and complete strangers melted into a flurry of cheers and tears while "God Bless the USA" played in the background.

It was an incredible, improbable moment, and Kevin McCloskey owned it.

"Pretty amazing," he said last week, as a grin spread across his face. "But then, I guess that's an understatement."

Kevin McCloskey joined the Army two years ago and shipped off to Afghanistan in March with the Army's 101st Airborne Division. He quickly found the war zone to his liking.

"I loved Afghanistan," he said, channeling his Operation Enduring Freedom memories in his parent's home on Princeton Avenue. "I enjoyed being on the ground, and I loved going out on missions."

But as time wore on, the violence escalated. "The thing about the Taliban is, they could tell when the Army had new units move in. Usually, they give us time to get settled," McCloskey said. "Then they try to get you."

To read the rest of Kevin's comeback tale, click here.