Naugatuck’s McKernan heeds call to duty

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Anthony McKernan of Naugatuck, seen here playing first base for the Greyhounds during the 2010 NVL season opener against Torrington, will follow in his grandfathers’ footsteps by joining the U. S. Army. CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Whether it was on the football field or the baseball diamond, 2010 Naugatuck High School graduate Anthony McKernan led by example. He never shied away from doing whatever was needed to be done for the betterment of his team.

McKernan displayed that team-first mentality this summer playing for the Naugatuck American Legion Post 17 baseball team. When the team was short on arms, he took to the mound for the first time since Little League and led Naugatuck to a victory over Prospect-Beacon Falls.

“I didn’t do all that well,” said McKernan, who played four years of football and baseball for the Greyhounds. “We got the win my first time out there but we did it with the bats, not from anything I did on the mound.”

As modest as McKernan tries to pass himself, he exhibited his true character recently when he joined the U. S. Army.

Following his graduation from Naugatuck, McKernan fulfilled a promise he made to his parents that he would try at least one semester at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

But deep down inside he had a passion for following in the footsteps of his grandfathers, Edward McKernan and Anthony Fantano, who both served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War.

McKernan’s parents, Larry and Nancy, are certainly proud of his decision along with his sister, Carley. He will ship off to Ft. Benning, Ga., on Oct. 17 in what he says will be a new chapter in his life.

“Both of my parents are very patriotic and they are very proud of the decision I’ve made,” McKernan said. “My whole life I have played sports and developed a competitive nature. Joining the Army is taking that team concept to the next level. I will certainly miss the years I competed in sports but now it’s time to start a new chapter. I will be able to fulfill my education through the service and I’m looking forward to this new challenge.”

McKernan has never been one to back away from doing whatever it takes to gain that competitive edge and his coaches have noticed.

“When Anthony and Zach Dreher were seniors, they really stepped up and provided the leadership we needed,” Naugatuck High baseball coach Tom Deller said. “But this is greater than anything he ever accomplished on the baseball field. There is something to be said about the decision Anthony has made.

“It certainly is an admirable decision and it shows the kind of character he has,” Deller continued. “At this age sometimes your decisions are dictated by peer pressure. But Anthony went above that and did what was on his heart.”

After 16 weeks of basic training and a two-week leave for Christmas, McKernan will be sent to his duty station to begin his tour of duty.

“I know there is a lot of stuff going on all over the world,” McKernan said. “But this is a time when our country needs you the most. Both of my grandfathers served in the Army and this is something I’ve always wanted to do.”