Soldier dad makes special trip
Kenni Kinsey digs through her craft boxes looking for ways to decorate her graduation cap. She decides on puff balls to line the edges and chooses strips of ribbon that represent her personality to stretch diagonally across.
She draws two faces, one happy and the other sad, to symbolize her love of the theater.
The 18-year-old Carson High graduate looks at it from all angles, deciding which beads look best where. She wants it to look perfect for her big day.
But there have been other big days.
When she played Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast.” Her sweet 16 birthday party. Marching in her eighth-grade graduation. Countless other concerts and performances. And her dad missed them all.
A master sergeant in the Nevada National Guard, Paul Kinsey, 44, has been deployed in the War on Terror since 2004. He served at Fort Irwin in California from August 2004 to July 2006. That same July, he deployed to Iraq where he served until July 2007.
He came home, watched the DVDs of all the plays he missed and started to rebuild his relationships with his wife and daughter. Then the call came. He was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. Kenni likened it to a game of Jenga, their relationship toppled just as it was starting to get strong again.
He left to Indiana for pre-deployment training in April. He promised Kenni he’d do everything he could to get a pass to come home for her graduation.
He called it “the one event that my presence there would mean a lot. It’s the culminating event of
But just weeks into training, he called his wife, Rachelle. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, so he asked her to tell Kenni he likely wouldn’t be able to make it.
Paul Kinsey grew up in a military family. His father fought in the Navy during World War II, then joined the Army.
Paul resented the time his father had to spend away from home, and even when he was home, he often worked sunrise to sundown. Paul knew that wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted.
“I just missed him,” Paul said.
But once he graduated from high school in Yerington, with a girlfriend he intended to marry, he knew he had to find some way to make a living.
College was his first choice, and he decided to join the National Guard to pay for his education.
Two weeks after marrying his high school sweetheart, he reported to basic training. Soon, the military became his education.
“It helped develop me as a man pretty early on,” Paul said. “Once I got into leadership, the responsibility of taking care of the soldiers was something I liked to do and was pretty good at.”
He got a job with the state, but remained active in the Nevada Army National Guard. He advanced from private to specialist to sergeant to staff sergeant and now master sergeant.
He adjusted to life away from his family.
“The more soldiers you’re responsible for, it’s almost like another family,” he said.
And his family adjusted to life away from him as well.
“I’m a pretty independent person anyway so I can do a lot of things by myself,” Rachelle said.
But the burdens of war taxed all of them.
Paul was injured during his 2007 Iraq tour and has under went four surgeries in the past 18 months. Rachelle was tired of doing it all alone. Even well-wishes from friends only served as a reminder that her husband was far from home.
He had been told his injuries might prevent him from serving. At the very least, he thought he had have five years before his unit, the 1/221st Cavalry, was deployed again.
The family looked forward to a rest.
When Paul called to let his unit know when his medical leave would end, he was told he was being deployed again.
“It was totally out of the blue,” he said.
When Paul arrived at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, he began asking his chain of command for a pass to return to Carson City for Kenni’s graduation.
He was told the post command had turned down a similar request and that it was likely his request would be denied as well.
Reluctantly, he called his wife to break the news. Even more reluctantly, Rachelle told Kenni, who took the news hard.
“Now no one’s going to get to see Kenni Kinsey walk,” Kenni decided.
“Let’s not be so hasty,” her mom tried to reason. But Kenni had made up her mind.
“I didn’t think it was worth it,” she said. “My parents were the right ones to see me, and if they both weren’t there, it wasn’t worth it to me.”
Unaware of the stand his daughter had taken, Paul continued to push his
He reminded them every day to seek permission.
While training, he pushed the issue to the back of his mind.
“Being concerned for the well-being of my troops helps me keep my mind in a positive direction,” he said. “I’m ensuring that those guys are taking total advantage of the quality of training they’re receiving, keep them focused on their training.”
It became increasingly more difficult.
“Personally, I was in a rut as far as my attitude,” he said. “But when you’re in front of your troops, you have to fake like you’re motivated to keep them motivated.”
It was the same for Rachelle back home.
Then, just weeks before graduation, he got the final answer.
His leave was granted.
“Yes, yes!” he exclaimed over and over, fists pumping in the air. “You guys rock! Thank you so much!”
This time, he made the call himself.
Kenni was rehearsing in drama class when she felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket.
“Uh, hi dad,” she answered.
The next thing she remembers she was running up and down the hallway screaming.
“I was just freaking out,” she said.
Her dad’s eyes filled with tears.
Paul arrived in Carson City on Tuesday and has to leave again today. But rather than focus on how soon he has to leave, as he’s done before, he’s focusing on each moment home.
His main concern is graduation.
He suggests Kenni use the puff balls on her cap. And she takes the recommendation.
“Everyone who knows me knows I love puff balls,” she says. “They’re so me.”
But when she’s finished, she realizes she didn’t line the cap up right before starting – all the decorations are sideways.
It’s not quite the perfection she had hoped for. But it all depends on the angle.
Paul steps to the side.
“From here it looks real good,” he tells her.
“You’re right,” she agrees.
As their home fills with family and friends after Saturday’s graduation, Kenni entertains guests with comedy and drama routines.
Rachelle snaps photos and Paul talks with small groups of people. Serving as centerpiece of the table, amid cards and gifts, sits the decorated graduation cap.