San Jose service honors fallen Navy SEAL
Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News Aug. 28, 2011.
By Sharon Noguchi
As a projection of his handsome face smiled down upon mourners from a large screen, Navy SEAL Kevin Arthur Houston was honored Sunday afternoon for his nearly 36 years on Earth.
Houston died Aug. 6 in Afghanistan when a Chinook helicopter carrying him and 29 other U.S. troops was shot down in the eastern province of Wardak.
He was eulogized as an athletic, tough and brave SEAL, yet his family and friends remembered him as kind, funny and dependable.
“A Navy SEAL is the gold standard of service to our country,” retired Navy Cmdr. Francis McVey told the five dozen mourners gathered at The Villages in San Jose.
Although not an official Navy service, Sunday’s ceremony was conducted with military traditions, from the San Jose State University Air Force ROTC color guard, to a bagpiper playing a mournful “Amazing Grace” and military chaplain Leo McArdle officiating.
Retired military volunteers served as escorts, and other veterans, from the Scottish-American Military Society and the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, among others, attended to pay their respects.
Houston’s funeral service was held earlier, in Virginia, where he had lived with his wife and three children, and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His father, Arthur Houston of San Jose, flew out to those services, but was hospitalized Saturday with heart problems and was unable to attend Sunday’s memorial.
The younger Houston was born in Atlanta, and lived in San Jose as a child, attending O.B. Whaley Elementary School, before moving to Massachusetts with his mother after his parents divorced. Houston’s aunt, Helen Marr, remembered him as “always into something.” As a youngster he once playfully hid in the branches of a tree, watching his grandmother and others search frantically for him. But as a teenager he once pulled a struggling man from a swimming pool, his uncle Charles Houston recalled.
Cousin Jerry Marr tried unsuccessfully to convince Houston to move back to San Jose in high school to play for the Oak Grove High School football team. Houston liked to hang around and play sports with his older cousins.
“We didn’t give him any break,” Marr said. “And he ended up being tougher than any of us.”
Kevin Houston’s energy, athleticism and determination served him well when he joined the Navy’s elite SEAL team. McVey reminded listeners that only 2 percent of applicants even pass the initial physical fitness test, and most others drop out during training. Houston survived, joined his first SEAL team in 1999, and rose to the rate of special warfare operator chief petty officer. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was honored with two Bronze Stars with Valor, a Purple Heart and many other medals, ribbons and citations.
Besides his father, Houston is survived by his mother, Janette Anderson of Virginia; a half-brother, Craig Anderson; wife Meiling; and three children, ages 17, 11 and 3. His sister, Miranda, died of cancer several years ago.
To his family, Houston talked little of his military missions, and couldn’t even divulge where exactly he was being deployed.
“But he told me,” Charles Houston said, ” ‘Uncle, you would be proud of me.’ “