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Q&A: Paul McKenna Jr.

August 25, 2009

Looking at Paul McKenna Jr., one thing is clear.

"It's not a young person's war anymore. I turned 50 on my way to Iraq," he said. "But to look at young people who I met for the first time and then six months later was in a combat zone with them, and to see the growth, it gives us a lot to be proud of."

McKenna, a Unites States Marine from 1977 to 1985, tried his hand at acting, teaching and served as vice president of a transportation company before joining the Army National Guard about 16 years later.

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He served in Bosnia from 2005 to 2006 and in Iraq beginning in 2008.

The Sgt. First Class sergeant first class returned from Iraq two weeks ago, where he supported convoys of third-country nationals and American contractors taking everything from food and water to ammunition and mail on some of the nation's country's most dangerous roads.

The Kiwanis member is preparing again to enter the job market as a Realtor at Keller Williams. We caught up with him at his family's home in Burbank, where he lives with his wife, Janet, and their 7-year-old son, Liam.

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CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO: What strikes you most about returning home?

PAUL MCKENNA JR.: How much Liam has changed and grown. I am also always overwhelmed with what Janet has gone through and what she has done. I look at how she's maintained the house, finances. She's got seven years in the Burbank Unified School District and she was put on the layoff list. She had to change schools and went to Bret Harte to stay with the district. I just wish I had been here for that. These are things that are life altering for them, and I wasn't here.

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Q: How has fighting abroad changed your perspective on the world and other cultures?

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