Body of FLW soldier killed in 1976 brought home

Nearly 38 years after Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Ray Foster was killed in action while defending his country on the homefront, his family is bringing him home to be buried next to his wife, Elizabeth.

In September 1976, Foster, a Fort Leonard Wood Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) supervisor, was on a Secret Service support mission to protect U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who was running for vice president at the time, in Quincy, Ill.

On Sept. 27, 1976, four bombs detonated in Quincy on the opposite side of town from where Dole was campaigning. 

After Dole left Quincy safely the next day, Foster and three other soldiers from the Fort Leonard Wood EOD team were released from the Secret Service support mission, but were asked to examine the bombing sites.

Foster's team and the Illinois state arson investigators located a bomb with a timing device and six to eight sticks of dynamite, according to an article in the Waynesville Daily Guide from that time. The team then removed the bomb and placed in it an open area.

An hour later, Foster and an arson investigator approached the bomb and it exploded, killing Foster immediately and severely injuring the investigator. 

Foster's youngest daughter, Alicia Stockdale, of Dixon, said she was 14 years old at the time when her 45-year-old father passed away, leaving the family in disbelief. Kenneth and Elizabeth Foster had four children — Kenneth Foster Jr., Rodney Foster, Alicia Stockdale and Pamela Parnell.

“You just don't prepare for things like that,” Stockdale said.

Foster's family, shaken by Foster's unexpected death, decided to bury Foster in his hometown of Salisbury, N.C. His father, who had just died the summer before, had a plot for him and the family decided it would be best to bury him there.

Foster was laid to rest on Oct. 2, 1976, in the Rowan Memorial Park Cemetery of Salisbury, N.C.

After his death, Foster's family decided to make Fort Leonard Wood their home.

“We had been at Fort Leonard Wood since 1971 and my mom became very involved with the community,” Stockdale said. “We had been here longer than any other base and it made sense to make this home.”

Foster's military career began in 1951 when he enlisted in the Army at Charlotte, N.C. He served as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal supervisor during the Korean War and as Operations Sergeant at the U.S. Army Arctic Test Center, Alaska.

He served as an EOD technician at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.; Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort McPherson, Ga.; with duty at the U.S. Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Herlong, Calif.

He served as Detachment Commander at Fort Leonard Wood from 1973 to 1974. From July 18, 1975, until his death, he served as senior EOD supervisor at Fort Leonard Wood.

The family had thought about relocating Foster since the Fort Leonard Wood Veterans Cemetery was established in 2009.

“My mom always said she would like to move Dad here,” Stockdale said. “And we told her we would get it done.”

Unfortunately, cancer took the life of Elizabeth Foster too quickly in 2013 and she died before the family could fulfill her wish.

But on Tuesday, Elizabeth Foster's longtime wish will be a reality. Her husband will finally be home.

“Bringing him home feels like it's all coming full circle now,” Stockdale said.

Foster will be buried with his wife at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood with a graveside service being held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 22.

Visitation will be held at Memorial Chapels and Crematory of Waynesville / St. Robert from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. Arrangements are under the direction of Memorial Chapels and Crematory of Waynesville / St. Robert.