Through a Veteran's Eyes
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Laura Kennedy
Volume 147, Number 3, May/June 2013, Page 5
Since she was a little girl, Laura Kennedy knew she wanted to perform in front of a camera. In high school, she fine-tuned that goal and set her mind to becoming a TV reporter, later graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University with a degree in broadcast journalism and human communication. Today, she’s a reporter for the CBS station in Springfield, Mo.
Now that she’s been a TV reporter for more than three years, she says her favorite part of the job isn’t being on camera—it’s being out in the community and meeting the people behind the stories she reports. She met dozens of World War II veterans while working on a story about the Honor Flight Network, which enables World War II veterans from across the country to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., free of charge. Then a TV reporter for the NBC affiliate in Billings, Mont., Ms. Kennedy was selected as the media representative for Montana’s second Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
“The whole thing was a whirlwind,” says Ms. Kennedy, a member of the Anasazi Chapter, Glendale, Ariz. “And it was really touching. For most of them, it was their first time to Washington, D.C. Most of them hadn’t even left the state since the war. The receptions in Washington and when they arrived back home were just incredible, as if the war had just ended.”
Among the veterans on her flight were three women who, once at the memorial, migrated to the inscription dedicated to women. “They started taking pictures and talking to tourists,” she says. “And I realized that visiting our nation’s capital with veterans can add a whole new level of depth to that journey. We’ll never be able to meet George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, but we can meet these veterans who experienced war.”
Ms. Kennedy says her involvement in the DAR, which she joined shortly after her 18th birthday, helped her appreciate the experience. “One veteran I talked to said his grandchildren never want to hear his World War II stories,” she says. “I wish that all 20-somethings were as interested in talking to veterans. Those 20-somethings are going to grow into 50-somethings and wish they could have heard these stories when they still had a chance.”
After returning to Billings, Ms. Kennedy became an advocate for the Honor Flight Network. In fact, when she was visiting family in Arizona last Christmas, she found out that her grandmother was eligible for the program and helped her get on the waiting list for Arizona’s next Honor Flight.
Ms. Kennedy submitted a DAR application on her own when she was still in high school, after discovering that her great-grandmother on her father’s side had been a member. “I wanted to join because it’s a really great organization that you have to be born into,” she says. “I’m the only female grandchild, so I knew that if I didn’t join, it wouldn’t be a part of our family in the current generation.”
Ms. Kennedy says she also appreciates the support she receives from her fellow members. “They’re a wonderful group of friends. They look out for me and care so much about my career,” says Ms. Kennedy, who, despite living in Missouri, is still active as her chapter’s corresponding secretary.
Outside of work and the DAR, Ms. Kennedy stays busy scuba diving, singing in a community choir, and volunteering at local elementary schools and through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Before leaving Montana, she received a community service award from the governor’s office.