NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Marine Sergeant Kevin Balduf was lost almost six years ago while serving in Afghanistan.
Like so many before and after him, Balduf was a husband and father, but he was also a hero, awarded the Bronze Star during military action in Iraq.
The 2002 graduate will always be honored at Lipscomb Academy, where his former coach remembers him as an undersized overachiever.
“He was a guy you never had to worry about getting all of his work done. Every workout, extra workouts it was ‘Coach what else can I do?’ It was always the extra kind of things and he was a great team leader,” remembers assistant coach Scott Tillman.
“He didn’t realize how small he was, really wasn’t big enough to play, but his heart was huge and he had a lot of fight in him,” added Tillman.
Balduf blocked while his twin brother Kyle ran and while football was not in his long-time future, everyone knew where his path would take him.
“I think Kevin was going to be a Marine when he was 2-years-old. It was almost like he was bred for that,” said Tillman.
“He never made excuses when he didn’t do things well. He didn’t take shortcuts. As a leader, he demanded from his teammates that they finish, that they do things right even when coaches couldn’t have their eyes on them all the times,” added Tillman.
Tillman and so many coaches are tough on their players, not just for Friday night but for the real tests they’ll face later in life.
“When Kevin went into the military, you knew he was going to be in danger, but you also knew you’d prepared him the best you could prepare him. You knew he’d prepared the best he could prepare. You trusted our military, the greatest military in all the world, that they were going to prepare him to be the very best he could be as well. After receiving the Bronze Star it validated all of those things,” said Tillman.
In Iraq, with bullets raining down, Balduf hunkered down, called in an air strike and saved all of his men.
After a two-year break, the Marine Corps was still in Balduf’s blood, so he re-enlisted.
And once again, Balduf was thrust onto the battlefield, his time in Afghanistan where he was tragically killed in action.
Tillman is still overwhelmed by the community support after Balduf’s death.
“To see hundreds and hundreds of people with flags and to see the number of people that had come by just to pay their tribute to him, it was an overwhelming experience and still to this day is pretty overwhelming.”
“I think anybody who puts their uniform on, that puts themselves in harm’s way so that we can do what we do here, so that we can do it freely is a hero,” said Tillman
Sergeant Kevin Balduf is survived by his widow Amy and two daughters, Stephanie and Eden.