By Ron Leir
A Kearny veteran was expected back home from overseas duty this past weekend and, aside from greeting his family, he had another particular joy awaiting him.
He’s getting married to his high school sweetheart.
When his plane touched down at Liberty International Airport in Newark on Friday, Shane Paul McAlinden was ready to formally propose to Kayla Lockartd and present her with an engagement ring. So we were told by his aunt, Christine Griffin of Harrison.
And it will be a very short step, from engagement to the altar: The couple are to be hitched Aug. 16 at the First Presbyterian Church on Kearny Ave.
The young soldier is 22 and his bride-to-be is 19.
Born and raised in Kearny, McAlinden attended Garfield School and Lincoln Middle School before entering Kearny High, from which he graduated in June 2010. And, a year later, he went into the Army.
Kevin Donnelly of Kearny will be Shane’s best man at the wedding. They’ve been best buddies since senior year of high school. Donnelly said he’s always known Shane to be “kind of adventurous.”
“Shane’s always been gung ho about going into the military,” Donnelly said.
Originally, McAlinden – who’d been working as a stock clerk at ShopRite during his high school days – wanted to go into the Marines, Donnelly said, but the induction process seemed to take forever so he switched to the Army.
“I’m proud of him,” Donnelly said.
After going through boot camp at Fort Benning, Ga., McAlinden was stationed temporarily in Seattle with an infantry unit at Fort Lewis and, in November 2012, his unit was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a nine-month tour with Bravo Company.
Now he’s back, on a 29- day leave, in his hometown where, according to his aunt, he’s considering applying to become a Kearny police officer.
He’s also getting reacquainted with his mom, Lorraine; his sister, Jordan, 20, who’s pursuing certification as an early childhood teacher at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, and his brother, Jacob, 7, a first-grader at Franklin School.
Interesting side note: Lorraine and her twin sister, Patricia, are believed to be among the last (if not the last) babies born at the old West Hudson Hospital in Kearny.
Griffin, business administrator for the Harrison Board of Education, says her nephew “is truly an inspiration to everyone he meets. The whole family is really proud of him.” Her other nephew, former Kearny resident Patrick Polise, 21, now of Brick, “just got called up by the Marines.”
Kayla, meanwhile, is continuing to pursue a career as a teacher, going for her degree and certification at NJCU. Her mom, Maria, is a teacher in the Kearny public school system and her dad, Pat, works for PSE&G.
The couple won’t have very long to settle into their new life: McAlinden is due back in Seattle at the end of his leave time and he’ll be promoted to the rank of Specialist when he returns to duty. He’s got a year and a half left in his tour but he’s not sure where he’ll be assigned for the duration, Griffin said.