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Kennedy marks injury anniversary

Fifty-six years ago this week, a Brookhaven resident says hebecame the first Mississippian wounded in the Korean Conflict.

Charles Kennedy, 78, was wounded July 27, 1950, during a NorthKorean assault on a U.S.-occupied position on the outskirts ofHongdong, according to his discharge papers.

Kennedy, who was stationed in Japan with the 25th InfantryDivision when the war broke out on June 25, 1950, said he was amember of the second U.S. unit to land on the beaches of Korea.

The unit was engaged against the North Koreans nearly from theoutset, Kennedy said, and he fought in several battles in the monthbefore he was wounded.

“We saw them coming and we were retreating,” he said. “They werefiring into the hills.”

Kennedy said as he stumbled through the brush in the darkness ofnight, he was lifted and propelled aside as an explosive round froma Korean T-34 tank struck the ground near him.

“I jumped up to run, and when I ran my leg gave out,” he said.”I looked down and it looked like a combination of spaghetti andmeatloaf. A portion of (the meat of my calf) was hanging down nextto my boot.”

Shrapnel from the shell had torn a large chunk out of his rightleg, but had not completely severed it, he said.

A couple of soldiers from a different unit carried Kennedy offthe hill. He said he didn’t know the soldiers and never saw themagain after they dropped him off at a medical aid station.

What followed was several months of recuperation at militaryhospitals in Japan and Pensacola, Fla. He eventually received amedical discharge in December 1951.

“I could not perform my duties,” Kennedy said. “It was fiveyears before I could walk with my heel on the ground.”

Medics at the aid station and doctors at the hospital told himhe was the first soldier from Mississippi they had treated for warwounds, he said. Later, he was told he was the first to receive askin graft by U.S. Army surgeons.

Today, he said, the wound looks ugly but hardly troubleshim.

“I haven’t had any problem with it for years now. I’ve evenplayed football on it,” Kennedy said.

The Purple Heart winner said he was not bitter about hiswounding and even tried to re-enter the Army years later. Kennedywas 32 years old at the time and was told he was too old.

Ironically, on the same date three years after he was wounded,North Korean and U.S. officials would sign an armistice ordering acease-fire. The dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial inWashington, D.C., also took place on July 27, 1995 – the same daythat Kennedy was shot in 1950.

An agreement officially ending the war between the United Statesand North Korea, incidentally, has never been formalized – a factKennedy believes may have implications in the troubles the U.S. ishaving with North Korea in recent years.

When he returned to Brookhaven after his Korean service, Kennedydecided to finish high school. He had enlisted in the Army in 1948at the age of 17 while still a junior at Alexander High School.

He graduated AHS in 1955 and shortly thereafter opened theKennedy TV Shop, repairing and selling televisions and otherelectrical appliances. In the late 1960s, Kennedy made aunsuccessful bid to become the Ward Three alderman.

The electronics shop closed in 1972, he said, because herealized he could make more money as an employee at the PotterCompany in Wesson than he could repairing televisions.

“I still fiddle with that all the time,” Kennedy said about hisfascination with electronics.

He retired from Potter in 1992 and began making yard ornamentsfeaturing university mascots. It’s a hobby he maintains today.

“I usually make a lot of them for sale during the school year,”he said. “I have to have something to do. I can’t just sit here onthis porch and fade away like (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur done.”