Kenneth E. Necochea Jr. told his family that his mission involved ousting…
Kenneth E. Necochea Jr. surprised his family one day by announcing he had joined the Army as an infantryman.
After he graduated from Poway High School in San Diego County in 2007, he trained briefly as an emergency medical technician and drifted between jobs at Vons and Costco. Then, said his mother, Donna Wright of San Diego, "he decided he needed to do something more with his life."
Having grown up with a strong Christian faith, he told his family he felt called to help, and wanted to be on the front lines. He joined the Army in February 2009 and was sent to Ft. Campbell in Kentucky that June.
"He wasn't able to articulate specifically what it was, but there was an innate warrior within," said his stepmother, Lori Necochea of Poway. "He wanted to be where the difference was being made."
A 21-year-old native of San Diego, Necochea was on his first combat tour when he was among six soldiers killed Dec. 12 by a suicide bomber who detonated an explosives-laden minibus in a remote outpost in the Zhari district of southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border. He was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell.
A specialist at the time, Necochea was posthumously promoted to corporal.
"He was just one of those kids that got out of high school and didn't really know what he was going to do with his life," his mother said. "He was initially going to enlist in the Navy. He decided the Army was where he wanted to be, and where he felt the Lord wanted him to be."
Necochea had been in Kandahar province for nearly half a year and was due to come home on leave in January, his family said. A rifleman, he told his family that his mission involved ousting the Taliban and returning Afghan families to their homes.
He spoke of the gratitude he saw on people's faces. It was "just overwhelming to him," his stepmother said. "Kenny said that was probably the kind of deployment that he was most satisfied with."
Weeks before his death, during a push against the Taliban, he told his family he didn't think he would survive. "I need to tell all of you I love you," his stepmother recalled him saying. Even then, she added, "He said he was happy and he was where he wanted to be."
His father, Kenneth E. Necochea Sr., remembered the worry he felt when his son announced that he had joined the Army. "My heart dropped when I found out, and, of course, we've lived our worst nightmare," he said.
Necochea was buried at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
In addition to his mother, father and stepmother, Necochea's survivors include his stepfather, Neal Wright of San Diego; three half brothers, Dylan, Evan and Kyrnan; and two half sisters, Amishka and Natalie.