Chicopee soldier killed in Afghanistan

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Dupont, 52, was injured by a roadside bomb while riding in a humvee in March, but lingered for months in a U.S. hospital while doctors struggled to save him and repair his 6-foot, 3-inch frame. With 70 percent of his body burned, he couldn’t speak or breath on his own, said lifelong friend Bruce Socha.

“They didn’t expect he was going to survive the trip to the United States he was so badly burned,” Socha said. “He had a tremendous will to live. He just kept going. That’s the way he was with his training. He’s going to leave a big gap. He has brought so many people together.”

Socha and Dupont were both in Chicopee High School’s class of 1976. Socha said Dupont joined the Marine Corps out of high school, racing out of class to catch a recruiter who was about to leave the the school for the day.

“We had a lot of good feelings about our country,” Socha said. “We were celebrating our founding fathers. That year we were celebrating our nation and our freedom.”

After eight years, Dupont spent a couple of years as a civilian, then joined the National Guard, where Socha said he worked training soldiers and many state employees in rapelling and sniper tactics. Along the way, he married a woman he met in the service, and traveled to global hot spots.

“Everytime he came home I said, ‘What have you been up to?’ and he said, ‘I’d tell you, but I’d have to kill you,’ ” said Socha, who remembers his friend for his comic timing as well as his service. “He traveled all over the world.”