Oswego (WSYR-TV) -- Oswego is mourning the loss of a young Soldier who died over the weekend in Afghanistan.
23-year-old Oswego-native Kyle Rookey leaves behind a wife and baby.
Now, Rookey’s fellow musicians and former teachers at Oswego High School (OHS) are honoring him as the proud soldier they always knew he'd turn out to be.
“He was a kid who walked in the theater smiling every day. He lifted everyone's spirits just by walking in a room,” said T.J. Bandla, director of OHS’s technical crew.
“This band is a family. We spend a lot of time together making music,” said OHS Marching Band Director Stephen Defren.
Rookey participated in the school’s marching band, where his teachers say he showed the dedication to his friends and loyalty to tradition of a true soldier.
Defren told NewsChannel 9, “He was somebody who cared very deeply about his family and his friends and his country.”
On a group trip down to Gettysburg Rookey's senior year, his band stopped at a memorial for soldiers from Oswego. Rookey was captured on camera honoring the soldiers before him, as he played taps on his trumpet.
“He understood, he understood what it meant…the sacrifice that those soldiers had made and he was proud to represent that through his performance,” Defren said. “He was just a really nice and genuine person, and, you know, we're going to miss him.
Once Rookey left school, he continued to mentor the younger students in the band and returned to support the music groups at Oswego High School.
“He came to our concert just this past Christmas. He was very happy, he was very proud of himself and what he had accomplished in the military; he was proud of his service,” said Defren “I was just glad that that's the last thing I got to see was him so happy.”
Rookey’s teachers say they'll honor his memory through music by continuing to teach Kyle Rookey's values of dedication, tradition and friendship to young students.
Specialist Rookey operated unmanned drones in Afghanistan, according to a spokesperson at Fort Carson Garrison.
Rookey received these four awards since he entered the army March 3, 2010:
- National Defense Service Medal
- Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Bronze Service Star
- Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
- Army Service Ribbon
The Department of Defense has released few details on Rookey’s death, only saying it did not happen in combat. Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed flags to be flown at half-staff this Friday to honor Rookey’s sacrifice.