With barbecues flaring and beaches filling — even in crummy weather, even under restrictions — it's easy to forget what Memorial Day is all about.

It's about men and women like U.S. Army Major Dwayne Kelley — a New Jersey State Police detective sergeant first class and longtime Army reservist who'd served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was killed in a bomb attack Iraq in June of 2008.

He'd been among 10 people, including four Americans, killed in an attack on an office in Sadr City, according to reports at the time. He'd been among the Americans working to restore the local government to the city.

“He believed in what he was doing, and he loved doing it,” NorthJersey.com quoted State Police Sgt. Guy Packwood saying in 2008. “If this would have happened to me, I would have wanted him standing sentry.”

State Police marked Memorial Day this year with a message remembering Kelley on their Facebook page.

Kelley was born in Brooklyn in 1960, but grew up a Jersey boy — a graduate of both John F. Kennedy High School in Willingboro and of Rutgers University, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He enjoyed basketball and masonry, and spending time with his family, including a wife, a daughter and a step-daughter.

Kelley entered the Army in February of 1978, and served for three years as a light wheel vehicle mechanic until February 1981, according to biographical information by the New Jersey State Police. In 1985, Kelley graduated from the ROTC program at Rutgers, earning his commission as a U.S. Army Reserve second lieutenant in the ordnance branch.

He began his career with the State Police on Feb. 25, 1988, as a graduate of the 110th State Police Class.

His early police career took him to the Wilburtha and Fort Dix Stations before being assigned to New Brunswick Station in 1989. At times, he served at the Moorestown and Newark Stations on the New Jersey Turnpike, and in in the Construction Unit.

In 1999, he was selected for the investigations section, and five years later was promoted to detective sergeant while in the Auto Unit-North.

Also in 1999, he changed his military occupational specialty to military police. He served as the headquarters and headquarters company commander for the 2nd Battalion of the 309th Regiment at Fort Dix from April 1999 until April 2001.

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He was mobilized as a military police officer in October 2001 shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 in support of Operation Noble Eagle. He served two years, with the 2nd Battalion of the 309th Regiment, 5th Brigade, 78th Division at Fort Dix.

Kelley became a civil affairs officer in October 2004 and was reassigned to the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, serving as the unit’s executive officer. In 2005, he became the assistant plans officer assigned to the 353rd Civil Affairs Command in Staten Island.

He joined the State Police Counter Terrorism Bureau, Joint Terrorism Task Force-North in October 2005. And in July 2007, he was transferred into the position of bureau administrative officer for the Counter Terrorism Bureau.

Kelley's second mobilization was November 2007 with the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, Green Bay, Wis., where he was serving as their Civil Affairs Team Chief.

His career was marked by accomplishment, receiving several awards, including the 2006 Essex County Executive Extraordinary Valor Award, which he received for interviewing terrorism detainees .

His military awards included two Army Reserve Components Achievement Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with bronze hourglass and with “M” (mobilization) device and the Army Service Ribbon.

New Jersey 101.5 invites its audience members to share their memories and images of servicemen and servicewomen they remember. Follow the link below to our Facebook post and share your thoughts.

This post originally appeared on New Jersey 101.5 in 2016, and has been updated.

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