Dave Kensy says he had conversation with Andrew Kemple just a few weeks ago. Kensy would link up with Kemple from Iraq via webcam. He says Kemple did not share specifics about what he did in Iraq, even where in the country he was.
Still Kensy says it was clear his friend liked what he was doing and that military life suited Kemple well.
"That was his personality type," according to Kensy. "He was a pretty strong-willed person and he really liked what he was doing. He was real motivated to do it and he believed in what he was doing and good rapport with the people he was with. And I think it the best thing for him at that time of his life. He found a lot of focus being in the service."
Kensy met Kemple in July 2001 when Kemple lived in an apartment adjacent to Kensy's girlfriend's. He says they became close friends and he remembers that following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Kemple began seriously considering enlisting in the military. Drew, as his friends called him, joined the Army in 2003.
From the start, Kensy says, Kemple wanted to be where the action was. The last conversation he had with his friend came immediately following an episode in which an improvised explosive device detonated very near Kemple's Humvee.
Kensy says as Kemple recounted the incident that could have killed him, he did not seem particularly concerned about his safety.
"I've spoken to one of his family members about that and they said that it was probably due to his faith. He had a really strong faith. He really didn't seem phased he was just like he said an expletive basically like "f" it -- big deal, no big deal," Kensy said.
About two weeks later Kemple was not so lucky. The Department of Defense says Kemple died February 12 in Tikrit when his Humvee came under small-arms fire. His family says he was shot in the neck while in his Humvee gunner's position.
Andrew Kemple's mother, Deirdre Ostlund, declined to talk with Minnesota Public Radio News about her son.
But the Isanti County News quotes Mrs. Ostlund as saying 9-11 marked a key turning point for Andrew. She told the paper her son became more responsible and less reckless.
Ostlund told the Associated Press her son believed he was bringing help, freedom and protection to others that he died a hero. He will be buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.