PAINESVILLE, Ohio (WOIO) - In Painesville, military veterans and members of the community where a Staff Sgt. Kyle McKee grew up are vowing to honor the fallen soldier’s life, even if it means in a scaled down manner due to COVID-19.
Funerals are among the many events that have been altered by the pandemic. While still allowed, social distancing and other health protocols have been put into place.
But that won’t stop local organizations from stepping up to help if called upon.
“We would love to extend our post for anything they need,” said Painesville American Legion Lead Trustee Kevin Cutler.
Funeral arrangements for Staff Sgt. McKee have not yet been announced.
His remains, along with two other American soldiers, were returned to the United States on Monday in a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
In all, five American were killed in in a peacekeeping mission last week in Egypt when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed.
A few miles from the Painesville American Legion sits the LeRoy Thompson VFW in LeRoy Township.
That’s where McKee grew up and that’s where reminders of his service are starting to surface.
While the VFW isn’t open for business every day; the flag has been lowered to half staff and the message board in front of the building has been changed to reflect the loss of a hero.
“All gave some, some gave all,” the board reads, while mentioning McKee’s name.
It’s unclear when McKee’s remains will be released to his family, or when funeral arrangements will be announced.
And despite COVID-19 restrictions, traditional military funerals with honors are still allowed and are being conducted.
“Military funeral honors, customarily provided by the Department of Defense and volunteer honor guards, will be based on local availability,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website.
The VA also mentions broad requirements: limited attendees, mask wearing and social distancing.
If McKee’s service is held locally, Cutler told 19 News the Painesville American Legion Color Guard will be ready to step in and help honor the Riverside High School graduate.
“We have to honor our servicemembers. We fought for those freedoms. You can’t let that be forgotten. No matter what we’re going through as a nation, or even a small community,” he said.
As of Tuesday night, Cutler said the organization has not been asked to provide any services.
McKee first enlisted in the Army in 2003. His overseas tours included Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.
He leaves behind a pregnant wife and two sons.