BUCN Scott A. Kennedy: An American Exemplifying the Seabee Can-Do Spirit

By Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (SCW) Karen C. Butler

2011 has been a year of challenges and milestones for Builder Constructionman Scott A. Kennedy. Although Kennedy grew up in Gulfport, Miss and has lived there for the majority of his life, he just became a naturalized U.S. citizen last month at the age of 30.  Kennedy’s family is originally from Newfoundland, Canada and moved to the United States shortly after Kennedy was born.  His family has a history of Naval service in the Seabees.  His step father, Utilitiesman 1st Class (Ret) Gerry R. Williams, his older brother, Steelworker 1st Class Coogan J. Kennedy and himself have all served with the Seabees.  “I studied American history in school growing up.  I’ve always felt American, but this makes it official” Kennedy said.

New Orleans, LA (November 10, 2011) BUCN Scott A. Kennedy becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Another milestone Kennedy passed this year was the long and painful recovery of a broken ankle and leg that occurred during deployment last year. Kennedy had been in the Navy for just over a year when he found himself faced with a serious injury an unexpected challenge.  Kennedy arrived at his first command, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 in August 2009 and deployed to Guam in May 2010.  Thinking back, Kennedy recalled that the first three months of deployment went great for him.  He was responsible for camp maintenance work and was also involved in several construction projects in which he built forms in preparation for concrete work.  

On a day off work in early August 2010, the Kennedy brothers and Engineering Aid 2nd Class Austin Dyer, all assigned to NMCB 11, went to the beach.  The three went snorkeling along the beach about a quarter of a mile and then stopped at a cave in the side of a cliff embankment.  The area was a popular swimming and snorkeling area and inside the cave were several rocks that led to a raised natural rock platform about 30 feet above the water where there was a rope that had been mounted at the top of the cliff.  The three took turns climbing the rocks and swinging into the water.

BUCN Kennedy was climbing up the rocks for one last swing when his brother said he heard his him yell.  The next thing SW1 Kennedy saw was his brother nearly motionless in the water below.  He instantly realized his younger brother had slipped off the rock and had fallen at least 25 feet.  He quickly jumped into the water next to his brother, lifted him up out of the water and set him up on the rocks. SW1 recounts, “He was face down in the water and I knew I had to get him out of the water fast because there was nowhere to do CPR.”  Concerned big brother Coogan and friend, Dyer checked BUCN Kennedy for injuries and noticed he was bleeding from his head where he had hit his head on a rock. They also noticed his right ankle was rapidly swelling as he calmly commented “my leg doesn’t feel right,” his older brother recalled.

 The two others quickly acquired a flotation device from a nearby group of swimmers, and being strong swimmers, were able to swim back with the injured Kennedy floating between them.  As they were swimming back to the beach, BUCN Kennedy was showing signs of a concussion when he repeatedly asked if his head was bleeding.  When SW1 Kennedy informed his brother of his bleeding head he asked, “Do you think the sharks will get us?” Eventually they made it safely back to the beach and BUCN Kennedy attempted to stand up, but all he heard was his foot and ankle bones crunching underneath him. SW1 Kennedy recalled that his brother’s leg landed next to his foot, indicating the severity of the break. As he started to feel intense pain, Dyer and his older brother rushed him to the hospital.

The doctors diagnosed Kennedy with compartment syndrome, which is uncontrolled swelling, in his ankle and leg and he underwent an emergency fasciotomy surgery.  Kennedy spent 21 days in the hospital undergoing six surgeries that required two metal plates and eight screws to reconstruct his ankle. The doctors told him, because of the severity of the break, he had a 99% probability of never walking again without a cane.  Although he was in a wheelchair Kennedy dismissed the doctors’ expectations and was determined to make a full recovery.  Two weeks after his hospital stay, Kennedy returned to Gulfport, Mississippi for his recovery where he was reunited with his wife, Diane, and his three daughters Keonna, Addison, and Lillian. “I call them my GRITS; Girls Raised In The South,” claimed Kennedy with a grin.

GUAM, 2010: BUCN Scott A. Kennedy recovering from surgery.

During his recovery, Kennedy was transferred to the 20 Seabee Readiness Group (SRG) where he was in limited duty status but his goal was to eventually return to NMCB 11.  As his leg and ankle healed, Kennedy began physical therapy.  During physical therapy, he pushed himself harder than the therapy required. Within five months of breaking his leg he was walking, and a month later he was running. “When they told me to start walking, I started jogging, and when they told me to try jogging, I went running,” Kennedy said.  In July, 2011, after eight months of physical therapy, BUCN Kennedy was cleared to return to the battalion to resume full duty.  The doctors explained that his ankle will be recovering and gaining strength over the next couple years.  Kennedy says that some days he wakes up and his leg doesn’t hurt at all, but other days are quite painful. “If I run three miles on Monday, it hurts until Wednesday.”  A year after the incident, Kennedy reflects back, “Physical therapy was rough.  The hard part was sticking to the schedule and not being able to do anything because I couldn’t stand.  My wife motivated me, and I was determined to be able to walk again.  Now I enjoy walking, and I don’t take it for granted.”

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