New­found­land mother re­lieved son re­leased from Iraqi jail

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - BY COLIN FARRELL

Kay Kennedy, the mother of a for­mer sol­dier from the Burin Penin­sula who was ar­rested last week by Iraqi Kur­dish forces, can rest easy now know­ing that her son will re­turn home.

Kennedy told The South­ern Gazette on the evening of Dec. 6 that her son Michael Kennedy had been re­leased.

“I got the news a cou­ple of hours ago,” she said in a phone in­ter­view from her home in St. Vin­cent’s.

“He called me and he said, ‘Mom, I’ve been re­leased. I’m good, I’m in good health and I’ll be home for Christ­mas.’”

She ex­plained that her son, a vet­eran of the Cana­dian Forces, who was in Iraq vol­un­teer­ing with Kur­dish forces in the fight against ISIL, had been trav­el­ling as part of a group when they were ar­rested.

“The five guys he was trav­el­ling with, three Amer­i­cans and two Ger­mans, their visas were ex­pired,” she ex­plained. “So it was a visa vi­o­la­tion, Michael’s visa was not ex­pired. It didn’t ex­pire till Jan­uary.”

Kennedy ex­plained her son was given an op­tion to go free or stay with the group.

“He turned around and said, the op­tion for me, I am go­ing to stay with my bud­dies, I am not aban­don­ing them.”

Kennedy said mil­i­tary per­son­nel are a tight-knit bunch of peo­ple who stick by one an­other.

She de­scribed how she was feel­ing when she got the news of her son’s re­lease.

“I felt relief, I was so emo­tional, it was un­be­liev­able,” she said. “Just to hear his voice, to know he’s fine and to know that he is in good con­di­tion.”

She said there have been many sleep­less nights since she first got news of her son, “not eat­ing, not sleep­ing, stressed out,” she said. “Ev­ery ad­jec­tive you can de­scribe it.” Kennedy said that when she first learned her son wanted to go to Iraq, she was un­easy.

“My ini­tial feel­ing to­wards it at the be­gin­ning was, please you don’t go there,” she said. “I didn’t want him to put his life in dan­ger, be­cause I al­ready have lost a son, Pri­vate Kevin Kennedy in 2007, and nat­u­rally he’s my only child that’s left, so I tried to dis­cour­age him from go­ing.

“But the thing is, he’s a 32-year-old man and there’s only so much you can do. I mean, he got to make up his own mind. … What can you do? He’s got to live his life.”

Kennedy said her son was em­pa­thetic for what the peo­ple in the re­gion were go­ing through.

“He’s got such a big heart … and when he (was) read­ing up on what the Kur­dish peo­ple were go­ing through, and no­body will ever know it or un­der­stand it or know it un­til they ex­pe­ri­ence what the other part of the world is like as op­posed to Canada,” she ex­plained. “We are so very for­tu­nate and blessed to be liv­ing in such a free, won­der­ful coun­try.”

She said that when Michael first went there he would say to her, “‘Mom you should see the con­di­tions and see what these peo­ple are go­ing through.’”

She added, “He said, ‘Mom, I’m go­ing there to see if I can make a dif­fer­ence in their lives.’”

Kennedy said her son has made many friends with the Kur­dish peo­ple dur­ing his time in Iraq.

“We might think it is all bad, but there are won­der­ful Kur­dish peo­ple be­cause through that past eight months I be­came friends with a few of his bud­dies who are Kur­dish from Su­laimaniya. … There are so many good peo­ple among them that need the Western world’s help, they re­ally do, and my son be­ing the guy that he is … he’s got such a good heart and a kind heart and I’m so proud of him.”

Kennedy ex­plained that she was first con­tacted by of­fi­cials from the Cana­dian Em­bassy up­dat­ing her on what was go­ing on.

“Not too long af­ter then, Michael made con­tact.”

Kennedy said there is an over­whelm­ing sense of joy and thank­ful­ness in their home.

“I’m not a re­li­gious per­son by no means, but I mean there’s a greater force than us, so I’m thank­ful there,” she said “I’m so thank­ful for so many peo­ple reach­ing out, like our gov­ern­ment, me­dia, all my friends, fam­ily and just the whole gen­eral pop­u­la­tion right across Canada.”

Asked what her feel­ings would be if Michael de­cides to re­turn to Iraq, she said with a laugh, “You ain’t go­ing there buddy. You’re home, you ain’t go­ing back.”

She said that would be her first re­ac­tion, but he is free to de­cide for him­self if he will re­turn or not.

Kennedy said the events of the week made her look back on what hap­pened with her youngest son.

“It was al­most like, oh my God, don’t tell me, don’t tell me that I’m go­ing to go through this again,” she said.

“Please Lord don’t let me go through this again, be­cause I don’t think I could han­dle it.”

She said there were many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween what hap­pened this week and what hap­pened when she lost her youngest son, Kevin, to a road­side bomb while he was serv­ing in Afghanistan.

“It sort of brought it back,” she said. “When Kevin was in Afghanistan, weeks went by that I had no con­tact with him, and all of the sud­den there’s weeks go­ing by where there no con­tact with Mike, and I’m think­ing to my­self, my God don’t let me have to go through the same thing.”

Kennedy said that through it all her big­gest con­cern was the safe re­lease of her son.

“Be­cause he was de­tained for a week, and if I hadn’t gone to the me­dia and if I hadn’t got­ten a hold of Global Af­fairs, God only knows how long Michael would be de­tained.”

Kennedy said she is glad she took ac­tion when she did and she has no re­grets.

“I had to do what I had to do to get my son out of there.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Kay Kennedy with her son Michael Kennedy.

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