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Meet Your Fort Lee Neighbor: Lieutenant Colonel Kevin McKelvy

Husband, father, scholar, athlete, soldier, actor, singer, poet, and two-tour war veteran; Meet Lt. Col. Kevin McKelvy of the U.S. Army.

Kevin McKelvy was not only born into a military family, he was literally delivered by his father, a soldier stationed at Fort Benning, during church services, just off base in Columbus, Georgia. Kevin said that his mother’s water broke, and she went into labor during the service allowing no time to get her to a doctor. Kevin’s father helped his mother through the delivery and even cut the chord. 

McKelvy's early years involved travelling around the country and the world, going to many schools and living in many towns. 

His family eventually settled in Kansas, and Kevin graduated from high school in Wichita, where he was a standout athlete. Upon graduation, he followed his father into the military and enrolled as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There he earned a position on the varsity football team as a running back. 

He played for successful Army football teams, winning two college football bowl rings—the first for beating Michigan State in the Cherry Bowl, and the other one for beating the University of Illinois in the Peach Bowl. 

But football was not Kevin’s only focus. He also had a significant interest in the creative arts and humanities, including singing, acting and poetry. 

Kevin said that West Point encouraged his passion for the arts.  

"At West Point, the theme was to develop future leaders of the country," he said. "Also, to expose them to a wide breadth of experiences and give them the tools to solve problems.” 

While at the Academy, Kevin sang in the Choir and Glee Club and went to a national competition in dramatic and poetry interpretation. In 1986, Kevin graduated West Point with a degree in Engineering Sciences and a minor in Political Science.

After graduation, he returned to the place of his birth and completed Airborne School at Fort Benning and then onto artillery training in Oklahoma and back to Fort Benning, where Kevin completed Ranger School and qualified as an Army Ranger. 

His first duty assignment was in Anchorage, Alaska, which Kevin found to be an incredible experience. He strongly encourages everyone to try get there at least once in his or her lifetime. Over the next several years, he completed advanced training and toured after the first Gulf War to analyze the armed forces’ ability to deploy troops around the globe. 

Kevin left the military in 1993 and held management-level jobs in the private sector before returning to Kansas to pursue his dream of being a professional actor. He moved in with his brother and immersed himself in the local arts community, trying to get on stage as much as he could. 

Kevin appeared in many plays, all the while holding down two jobs. He worked at the local Hyatt, and then changed clothes in the car on his way to a job waiting tables and then on to auditions and rehearsals. After a couple of years, Kevin decided to make the move to the Big Apple. 

He also received a little help from his friends. Believing in his abilities, and with a strong desire to help him, the people associated with the Kechi Playhouse in Wichita, Kansas, held a garage sale and helped Kevin produce a one-man show, giving him all the proceeds to help fund his trip to New York. Kevin also joined the Army Reserves at that time.

He moved into an apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn and enrolled in a three-year masters program at the Actor’s Studio of the New School University. During his tenure at the New School, Kevin appeared in commercials, plays and summer season theater. He also met his wife, Caren, at the New School. They were married in 2002 and had a daughter in 2003 before settling in Fort Lee. 

Kevin’s acting credits include appearing in three episodes of the HBO series, The Wire, a role in an episode of The Sopranos, roles in two independent films and numerous commercials. 

He has sung the national anthem, in uniform, at Shea Stadium three different times, including once in front of about 50,000 fans during the NLCS. He said this experience “really made me think about the words and what it really means to me and how many people have sacrificed out of the sentiment about what the song is about.” 

He also sang prior to USO shows in Iraq by Rascal Flats and The Charlie Daniels Band.

Shortly after the arrival of his daughter, Kevin was deployed to Iraq for a one-year tour of duty in 2004. His primary role in Iraq was to help run an Army base and airfield, and he held the title, Director of Public Works.

Upon his return from Iraq, Kevin tried to reignite his acting career, but it proved very difficult because “being away, broke the flow of contacts” in the industry, he said.

He remained in the military and assumed the position of Provost Marshall at Fort Totten in Queens, focusing on risk management and facility management. 

Then in 2007, Kevin was selected for a full-time position at the Pentagon. He commuted from Fort Lee to Washington. His primary task at the Pentagon was to track events around the world and provide a daily briefing to the senior leadership. 

In 2009, Kevin was ordered to deploy to Iraq for a second one-year tour. During this tour, he spent a year in Baghdad as a Master Planner. He assisted Iraqi nationals in establishing private businesses so once the U.S. military left Iraq, the Iraqis would be able to rebuild their economy. His role also involved operating the base, which was essentially a large city.

Kevin said that they “left the land better than we found it from an environmental perspective,” especially with respect to pollution and water quality.

Upon his return to the U.S., Kevin returned to the Pentagon until April 2010 and then moved on to Fort Dix, training soldiers for deployment with respect to logistical support and administration. 

Kevin still has aspirations of returning to acting, and he tries to use those skills in his current position. He implements what he calls “live industrial acting theater” which helps to teach various training and skills by live demonstrations instead of watching training films.

Kevin said he and his family enjoy living in Fort Lee because it is a “safe place with good schools, proximity to New York and its transportation options.” 

He likes the diversity of Fort Lee and that his daughter is exposed to different cultures and the opportunity to learn from people “who are not like you.” 

Kevin also enjoys the fact that Fort Lee is the birthplace of the motion picture industry. He said it would be great if the Area 5 development space would have a “live, work and play facility with theater space as a centerpiece.” 

This space could be utilized to run educational programs, entertainment features and industrial acting, he suggested.

Kevin regularly attends his daughter’s athletic and extracurricular activities. He also makes it to Fort Lee Board of Education meetings when his schedule permits. His current rank is Lieutenant Colonel. 

Kevin said his role model and inspiration is Jimmy Stewart, who pursued an acting career while rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the Airforce Reserves.

Thank you for your service, Kevin.

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Martha Cohen January 10, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel McKelvey. You and those you serve with are the true heroes of our time and we thank your wife and family for their sacrifice. I hope I meet you soon so that I can thank you in person.
Tracy January 10, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Thank you Lt Colonel! I met you a few times and you were impressive with just a handshake and a hello! And after this article, even more so! Welcome to our little borough and I hope you will continue to participate!
Mercedes Glass January 18, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I had the pleasure of meeting Lt. Colonel McKelvay and his family last night. After reading Coach Dave's excellent article, I admire Lt. Colonel McKelvay even more. It's amazing to learn of his accomplishments. Yet he remains, a very humble and loving husband and father and an outstanding officer. May God bless him and his family always! Mercedes Glass
Gerry Glass January 18, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I got to meet Kevin while coaching his daughter in basketball. He is a very modest person. I was unaware of all of his achievements and I found it very interesting to read about them. He is a very versatile person. I am sure the future holds many more accomplishments. Kevin is an all around standout guy! It is a privilege having someone of his caliber serving our country and I would like to thank him. P.S. It is also fun having him help out during practice.
James Son January 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Wow! Wonderful article!!! Thank you for writing it. And thank you Lt. Colonel Mckelvay. Your accomplishments, dedication and devotion has left me speechless and in awe. You are a role model for us all. My children, all five of them, will be reading this article tonight. Thank you again.

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