A few dozen friends and family members of Army Spc. Joseph Kennedy gathered in the armory gymnasium in Inver Grove Heights Tuesday to share their memories of the fallen soldier.
The U.S. Department of Defense says Kennedy, 25, died last week in Afghanistan from injuries he sustained during an enemy attack. Kennedy's mother Valerie Kennedy says her son lived his life, 'fast, full and loud' to the very end.
Joseph Kennedy was born and raised in Inver Grove Heights and was a wrestler at Simley High School.
His parents said he always seemed to have wheels underneath him, either rollerblades, bicycles or motorcycles. They say once he pushed his motorcycle to 180 mph.
Joseph Kennedy's grandmother, Jo Skoglund, summed up how many others characterized Joseph Kennedy's youth.
"This kid was high energy," said Skoglund.
Skoglund said her grandson also liked to tease her with made-up stories. She said Kennedy would get a twinkle in his eye when he got her to fall for something.
"I thought after a while, we could have done a George Burns, Gracie Allen vaudeville duo and I would be the perfect straight man for him," Skoglund said.
Kennedy's other grandmother, Jean Kennedy, said he was always willing to lend a hand. She said Joseph Kennedy once helped her move her bed and when she tried to give him a few dollars for his trouble, he refused.
"He said, 'Uh-uh grandma, isn't that what grandsons are for?" said Jean Kennedy. "He was just the sweetest kid."
Family members say Joseph Kennedy was skilled at working with his hands for both artistic and mechanical ends. Valerie Kennedy said these skills, combined with his love of shooting things with a paintball gun, made him a good match for the Army.
"Everything he did throughout his lifetime prepared him for what he chose to do, whether it was leaping and jumping and flying or blowing things up in the backyard. He loved to do that kind of stuff," she said. "And he was good at it."
Valerie Kennedy admits that her son's high-energy sometimes got him in trouble. Joseph Kennedy joined the Army in 2009, and wanted to be an engineer as a Green Beret. But Valerie Kennedy said her son never became a Green Beret, because he was suspended for a year for what she called an off-base incident.
Joseph Kennedy's father James Kennedy said his son was proud to be in the Army and believed he was making a difference in Afghanistan. However, both he and his wife say they did worry about him.
Army officials say they won't release circumstances surrounding Kennedy's death, because the incident is under routine investigation. They say Kennedy's unit was attacked with small arms fire.
Officials say members of Kennedy's unit, based out of Fort Knox, Ky., recently held a memorial service for him in Afghanistan.
Valerie Kennedy said her son's friends in the unit have become like family.
"They're hurting," said Valerie Kennedy. "I have more boys now. I'm a mom of a lot of boys."
Family members say funeral arrangements are forthcoming, and they say Joseph Kennedy will be buried at Fort Snelling Cemetery. Memorial donations can be made in the name of Joseph Kennedy to organizations suggested by the family: Wounded Warriors, the USO, Fisher House, Walter Reed or Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.