Kenny Pinkela- a true story

Note- a true story of a fine man, local to our area

An exceptional man.

1930.

A black man runs breathlessly across an arid Mississippi field on a summer night.

Townsmen with dogs relentlessly pursue.

Why?

The ‘worthless nigger’ glanced at a white woman. Caught. Strung up. Castrated. Set on fire. The southern town was a better place.

Only one thing wrong. The black man NEVER DID IT.

2014.

University of Virginia.

A major magazine, Rolling Stone, reported that members of a campus fraternity gang raped an innocent freshman girl. Fraternity suspended.  Members vilified. Frat house vandalized. The victim becomes a hero. The campus was a better place.

Once again, the frat brothers NEVER DID IT.

Outrageous injustice can happen to anyone at anytime at anyplace. It has happened to poor black men and rich white men. And goodness! It has happened to women!

Yes, it has happened in the civilian world and in the military. Yes, the military….

Kenny Pinkela….

Let us first briefly know the man.

Travel in time back to tiny Otisville Elementary School, 1975.

Greg Dinunzio,  now retired teacher reflects.

“Kenny was incredible, a teacher’s dream.  Academically wonderful, always helpful. And that smile! Never had a better student in 40 years.”

Kenny, one of two children of hard working middle class folk, continued happily through school.  And then…

1983. High school.  Kenny is driving home from school, behind a car full of students. The lead car careens off the road, flipping and crashing into a house.  Two kids OK, one tragically injured.

Some look away.

Kenny climbs through the wreckage, and supports the now paralyzed boy  until the ambulance comes.

Mary, the paralyzed boy’s mother, 32 years later..

“I will NEVER forget what Kenny did for my son.”

Don’t be surprised. He’s not just exceptional now.  He’s always been exceptional.

Years pass. Kenny serves his country with great distinction, honor, and courage for decades.

Then charges are brought-exposing a soldier to the HIV virus.

We all know the quote “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

For Kenny, justice rode the back of the bus for five long years.

We also know, from watching Perry Mason to LA Law, that all prosecutions are based upon an investigation. But that DID NOT HAPPEN HERE. NOTHING! Perhaps a first?

For the young accuser in this case, he sexually engaged with “too many men to count”. Yet the prosecutor summarized his case against Kenny with the statement “You are HIV positive. You must be guilty”.

And he was found guilty, of a felony.  Sentenced to prison. His career and life destroyed. AND HE NEVER DID IT.

Here, friends, is where the exceptionalism kicks into high gear. How many of us, life destroyed,  facing prison, would cower and sulk?

Kenny immediately started working with young imprisoned men who could not string together three words in a sentence toward an appeal. He taught them, he demanded of them, he loved them.

His release date, an expected joyous event, was met with gut wrenching sobs by his students.

Earlier in this story, a terrible reprehensible word was used. Nigger.

Know this. Kenneth Pinkela and HIV positive men are the niggers of the military. They stand no chance of receiving justice.

So what do we ask from you?

Feel the pain.

Sense the outrage.

Reach out. Help us.

It is you that can bring a right to a terrible wrong.

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5 thoughts on “Kenny Pinkela- a true story”

  1. This is SPOT ON!!!!!

    From observing the proceedings, being a character reference, and a Black gay male I find this Blog Post refreshing and very accurate.

    Once again, SPOT ON!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Coach – I happened across your blog thanks to Ken’s FB link. I was on what (I think) was your last JV b-ball team in the 1982-83 season, and I wanted to share how that experience influenced me. I started that season as a bench warmer – pretty disheartening considering the passion I had for the game and we only had 9 players. Early on, I decided after one particular game of a full 32 minutes of pine-riding that I would rededicate myself – i.e., “play like the Tasmanian Devil” – and see if that got me any floor time. If that didn’t work, I’d be faced with the reality of being a good gym class player and nothing more, and I’d have to give up the game I loved so much. Well, a few dozen floor burns later, playing time came. A little at first, then some more, and then I cracked the starting lineup. The details of my ascension, while disturbingly vivid for me, are not important. What is important is I kept it up, you kept encouraging and rewarding it with playing time, and I got better.
    I maintained the “Taz” approach into the future. I made Varsity as a junior, and got some garbage time. The next year, I started most of the season and lettered, taking more charges than Shane Battier and getting every loose ball with a head first dive. Then, I was able to attend a D-I university with a high basketball profile…for its superb reputation in Engineering. Not quite a fairy tale ending, but it’s not over yet. At the ripe old age of 25, I started coaching young men in rec and travel leagues. Of all the coaches I had, my style probably matches yours the closest. I coached off and on over the past 20+ years with 14 different squads, some with my kids, and some without. Without exception, every player who played for me was better when they left than they were when they started, and they all gained an increased passion for the game.
    Reading through some of your posts, I’m sad to hear of some of your troubles over the years, but glad to see you’ve emerged better for it. If you ever find self-doubt creeping in, just know that the 4 months we spent together after school everyday helped shape me. And if one’s not enough, I’ve passed it on to over 100 young men in the Northern Virginia area – some of whom are probably coaching their kids now. Thanks, Coach.

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    1. Dear God, thanks Scott! Of course I remember your hard work and dedication! I just recently reflected on how I should start coaching again because I didn’t feel like I did a good job way back. Your words are very heartening, and thanks for supporting Kenny!

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      1. Coach – Depends on your definition of “good job.” If you wanted to cultivate NBA players, then you failed. If you wanted to teach the value of teamwork (I still love a good 1-3-1 half court trap!), the power of hustle, and the right way to represent your school, then you did a great job. I can see you with a group of energetic 5th or 6th graders, funneling that energy into what matters.

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