LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56/WKYT) – Two years ago, Donna Parker was taking trash to a dumpster at her work when she came across something inside she knew just didn’t belong.
“I was taking a chair from the building to the dumpster, and seen a military bag,” Parker recalled. “It was like a garment bag and had ‘Army’ on it. It drew my attention, so I got into the dumpster and pulled the bag out, immediately started going through it, and within the bag, I found two military suits.”
Determined to find out more about the suits and return them, Parker took the suits home. She turned to social media, old-fashioned research, and even took the suits to car shows and other events to try to find who they belonged to.
“For the past two years, I’ve been searching. I’ve done background checks, I’ve done google searches, Facebook searches. You name it.”
One Facebook comment told Parker to check the suits for any initials or identifiers. She found a “KM” written on a tag.
“When I saw that, it jogged my memory that during my background checks, there was a Keith McKenzie associated with a Crystal McKenzie.”
Crystal was a name Parker had found through her research.
“I stopped what I was doing and I googled, Sgt. Keith McKenzie. I had learned he was a Sgt. from the medals on his suit.”
It was a moment Parker says she had longed for. A big break in her long search.
“I was just in awe trying to process it. I knew that I had found him, and my search was almost over.”
But the first article Parker found when she looked up Sgt. McKenzie took her breath away.
“Sgt. Keith McKenzie, age 32, passed away Monday, February 5, 2018,” his obituary read. “He was born on June 26, 1985, in Columbus, Ohio. Keith served two tours in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013. He was a Sgt in the US Army from 2008-2015.”
Sgt. McKenzie died battling PTSD.
“I immediately broke down,” Parker said. “For many reasons. First, you don’t want that kind of news. Second of all, I kind of felt defeated.”
Determined more than ever before, Parker worked to connect with Sgt. McKenzie’s family and found them in Waco, Texas.
“We connected. We laughed, we cried. We told each other the story. She told me about her son, who is also named Keith McKenzie, was having a really hard time and they had nothing left of his military days. So at that point, it became a new goal to not only deliver these suits but take these suits to them in person.”
It’s a nearly 1,000-mile journey from Lexington to Waco. Parker says she plans to fly down, spend the night, then come back the next day. She estimates it’ll cost her $1,500. She’s saving up and asking for donations to help get her there.
“Giving these suits to his children is going to be the best thing I’ve ever done.”