April 23

Hospitalman Aaron A. Kent, USN

The Department of Defense announced on April 25 the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Hospitalman Aaron A. Kent, 28, of Portland, Oregon, died Apr. 23, from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations near Fallujah, Iraq.  Kent was assigned to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. 

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EMSN Network News and Information -- April 29, 2005 -- When Aaron Kent enlisted in the U.S. Navy, the last thing he expected to be doing was patching up wounded Marines in the urban war zone of Fallujah, Iraq. But that’s the job he ended up with, and his father, Gary Kent of North Portland, said he never complained about it. “His words were: He had to be there for his Marines.” Aaron Kent, a 28-year-old Navy medic born and raised in Portland, was killed Saturday when an improvised bomb exploded beneath the Humvee he was traveling in. His sacrifice will be recognized in a military ceremony Wednesday at Willamette National Cemetery in Southeast Portland. Kent, a graduate of Roosevelt High School, worked short-term jobs with Wacker Siltronic and the American Red Cross before signing up for the Navy in 2002. He returned to Portland for a brief leave last winter after completing a tour in Afghanistan, then shipped off for Camp Baharia, two miles south of Fallujah. Gary Kent, an environmental engineering technician at Wacker who served in Vietnam, said he was “deeply honored” to hear condolences from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and many of his son’s friends. At the same time, he said he is having trouble accepting what has happened. “It all seems like a bad dream,” he said. Aaron Kent’s mother, Lara Byrns, broke into tears several times as she recalled her son’s descriptions of his experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. She said the poverty Kent saw in both countries distressed him, and he often went out of his way to treat village kids who had no access to health care. “He was very moral,” she said. “He loved Portland, and he loved his family. He was very proud of where he came from.” His parents said Kent always had a knack for making people laugh, but he became a quieter person after experiencing some disturbing things in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan did change him,” Byrns said. “He was more subdued, more thoughtful.” Gary Kent spent a night earlier this week reminiscing about his son with about 10 of Aaron’s closest friends. “They sat with me until 1:30 in the morning,” he said. “It was very therapeutic for me.” Aaron Kent’s red 1995 Mustang still is parked in front of his parents’ home on North Bowdoin Street. Inside, they have built a shrine of flowers, cards and photographs, as well as the boots that he wore in Afghanistan. There also is a painting of a medic pulling a wounded soldier off the battlefield. As a Navy corpsman, Kent served as a battlefield emergency medical technician. The Marines he accompanied on patrol referred to him as “Doc.” He carried surgical tape and bandages — along with his M-16. His father, a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, said the date April 21 always held a strong meaning for him because that was the day he was wounded in Vietnam in 1968. “I never said anything to anybody about this, but in my mind and in my soul I just felt that if Aaron could get past the 21st, he’d be OK,” he said. “He died on the 23rd.” Aaron Kent’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the New Hope Community Church, 11731 S.E. Stevens Road. The ceremony at Willamette National Cemetery will follow.

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