Family, community remember Painesville soldier who died in tragic helicopter crash

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LAKE COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee will leave an indelible mark on Northeast Ohio. 

“He touched a lot of people here and that he was an influence on a lot of other young people’s lives,” said his father, Steve.

Growing up in LeRoy Township, his father says service was the 35-year-old’s lifetime ambition. 

“When he was about 3 or 4 years old, he was gonna be in the army. He knew that,” Steve said.

McKee attended Riverside High School in Painesville.

His former physical education teacher, Becky Bartholomew, described him as an all-American boy that you’re always going to remember. 

“Kyle always had that grin and that impish little twinkle in his eye,” she said.

She remembers his kindness and dedication to going to the military. “He spent his summer between his junior year and senior year in boot camp.”

Kyle enlisted in the army in 2003, joining the ranks of McKee servicemen including his older brother who served in Iraq.

“My dad was in World War II. He also served in Korea,” said Steve. “I was in from ’62-’70 which covered the Vietnam Era.”

McKee served tours in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq where he earned several medals for his distinguished service.

In July, he was stationed in Egypt.

On Thursday, McKee and four other soldiers lost their lives in a helicopter crash during a peacekeeping mission while flying a Black Hawk over Sinai, Egypt.

He leaves behind two sons, a wife, and an unborn daughter. “He was a very outgoing person. He was a great father, a great son, a great brother,” said Steve.

Back home, neighbors hung flags on farm equipment and on their lawns to show support. “And then I looked down the road and there were flags by all the mailboxes,” said Steve.

A veterans memorial wall at Riverside’s football field has a plaque that honors all the graduates who have been killed while serving. “I’ve already called the engraver and Kyle’s name will be added to that,” said Bartholomew.

But the mark this hometown hero leaves goes beyond the city limits. “You don’t realize it until you start getting messages from around the world of how he touched somebody in some way.”

The army is still investigating the cause of the crash but says it appears to be just a tragic accident.

Staff Sgt. McKee’s family is still making funeral arrangements. There are two GoFundMe accounts set up for his family, which you can find here and here.

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