LONDONDERRY — It was a final flyover and sendoff to a supportive community.
As Londonderry resident and U.S Army Col. Matt Kennedy prepares to retire at the end of the month, the Black Hawk pilot wanted to give his town one last tribute, flying a beloved helicopter one last time over apple orchards and fields.
On May 22, Kennedy made one last grand appearance in a crystal blue sky over Mack's Apples orchards as family and friends safely gathered to watch the last flyover, holding American flags and maintaining safe distancing.
The helicopter arrived in Londonderry from its journey at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod.
Many people, friends and Kennedy family members gathered along Mammoth Road, in fields near Mack's Apples orchards and in the farm stand parking lot to watch the helicopter flyover that included several laps over the fields and community.
Many held American flags to honor Kennedy's retirement.
Kennedy is retiring at the end of the month after 30 years of service in the U.S. Army and is a Class of 1990 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is also a National Security Fellow of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a master aviator.
Kennedy served several combat tours overseas and led a tour of the Middle East as the 151st RSG Brigade Commander of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
In past years Kennedy, a father of four, also honored his community with various visits to local schools to show off his helicopter.
For Kennedy, the day was perfect as Memorial Day weekend started. It was a way to honor the first responders, healthcare workers and others in the front lines during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic challenges.
According to Kennedy's wife, Kerri, the original retirement plan was to make a big appearance in Londonderry and land the aircraft.
"He wanted to land," she said, "then COVID-19 hit."
Kerri Kennedy said many people had never had the opportunity to see the helicopter up close and climb inside.
But in years past, Matt Kennedy had made it a point to bring his aircraft up close and personal with local school children, landing the helicopter on several occasions at area schools so students could get a close look
The father of four had been deployed during his career, once for 16 months to Camp Buehring in Kuwait and flew helicopters in and out of Iraq to carry troops and equipment. He also transported dignitaries and celebrities such as former President George H.W. Bush, and then Massacusetts governor and now U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney.
During his deployment, local students sent care packages with cards, homemade cookies and lots of other treats from home, including spruce-scented potpourri to bring a little of New Hampshire to the troops.
Kennedy currently works at L3 Insight Technologies, and wife Kerri said the company has been very supportive of her husband's career. She said the day was very emotional for the entire family.
"He has no idea who will be here," Kerri said, adding many family members were gathered safely to watch her husband's final maneuvers.
After the helicopter circled over the apple orchards a few times, the copter headed back to Cape Cod.