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Thoughts of time on the Mississippi River might bring quotes of Mark Twain to mind or perhaps the sound of boat’s horn. Joseph Kennedy followed in his father Jim’s footsteps working on the river as a deckhand and terminal operator. No doubt, that on those long patrols in Afghanistan that Joe thought of his five years on the river. Those sounds. The smells. The constant motion of water and machine. Servicemen and women fill the void of thoughtless time by thinking of home. Thinking of that safe place. It delivers some solace and peace even in war.

Joe penned a letter and poem to his father about six months after joining the army. Both the letter and poem strike a unique tone of humility and "others above self." He writes about his father as an inspiration and his greater teacher. In the poem he titled “My Hero,” Joe deliberately deemphasized the “I” putting it in lower case while emphasizing the beginnings of other words with the upper case. It’s telling in the message he wanted to send.

My Father is My Hero


He has Taught me Everything

i Know about Being A Man


How to Control My Anger

and How to Control My Love


i Have Failed to Listen to Him

From Time to Time and Made Mistakes

i Can’t Help but Feel i Have Failed Him


He Does His Very Best in Everything

He Is and surely Everything He Will Be


My Word is True when i Say

i Love Him with Every Fiber of My Being


He is Everything i Wish i Could be

A True, Faithful Lover and Inspiring Father


He is My Father and He is My Hero


Before Joe’s death, his father had been working on a barge that he’d christen “Shmolie” after Joe’s nickname. Shmolie was an extension of Joe Shmo. One can imagine the unique bond they forged on the river.


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