Kevin King comes home a final time

When Kevin J. King managed to string together a few weeks of time off from Army training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky for the Christmas holiday last December, he decided that rather than tell his father in advance, he would surprise him. After his sister, Lauren, picked him up at the airport, he got out of the car several blocks from his father's Pope's Hill home and strolled in unannounced.

"He was a quiet kid, but he had lot of friends, and he liked to do harmless pranks like that," said his Father, James King. "He had a great sense of humor."

When King came home again on Monday evening, his family was waiting for him at the airport, but the conditions surrounding his arrival this time were tragically somber.

King, a St. Mark's native and Army Private 1st Class, was killed early on the morning of April 18 during a training exercise at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

According to information released by the Army, King was hit by small-arms fire during overnight training on a firing range at the army base. King's unit was conducting a room-clearing exercise with live ammunition when he was struck. He was wearing a protective Kevlar vest at the time of the accident.

"I've spoken to the base commander there, and they are all really sorry for what happened… there are no hard feelings between us and the Army, and they've been nothing but helpful to make sure all the arrangements have been made for Kevin," said James King.

After the accident King was flown by helicopter to the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, where he died of his wounds around 4 a.m.

The last time a soldier was killed at Fort Campbell was in 2005, when 19-year-old Gregory B. Wertz died in a similar training exercise.

King, 19, was a member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He was born in Dorchester's St. Mark's neighborhood and later moved with his siblings and mother, Teri King, to Plymouth, where he attended Plymouth South High School.

His father is the vice president of the Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association, and King spent a great deal of time in recent years visiting his father's house in Dorchester, even attending Boston's Madison Park High School for a time during his freshman year.

Phil Carver, president of the association and a longtime friend of the King family, said learning yesterday of King's death was a tragic blow. Just before King left for boot camp last July the Carvers had thrown him a going-away party in their backyard.

"It's hard to wrap your mind around," said Carver. "My brother was in Iraq, and in that situation you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. To have something like this happen is just tragic."

By the time King graduated last spring, he had already decided that he wanted to join the Army. His twin brother, Michael, also chose the armed forces, and still plans to enter the Navy in July.

James King said that both he and Kevin's mother, Teri King, had discussed with him the risks involved in enlisting, and that Kevin was undeterred by the risk of being sent to combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. His unit was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in September.

"We just have to remember that he wanted to be a soldier, and that he was a good soldier," said his father. "I'm pretty sure that's the way he would liked to be remembered. He wanted to join the Army, he wanted to serve his country, and he did."

Beyond his parents, twin brother, and sister, Kevin King is also survived by a younger brother, David.

King was waked on Tuesday evening at the Richard Davis funeral home in North Plymouth and buried Wednesday at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.