Michael E. Koch
Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 097-08
DoD Identifies Navy Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two sailors who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Chief Petty Officer Michael E. Koch, 29,of State College, Pennsylvania, and Chief Petty Officer Nathan H. Hardy, 29, of Durham, New Hampshire, died February 4, 2008, from wounds suffered from small arms fire during combat operations in Iraq.
Both were assigned to East Coast-based SEAL teams.
For further information related to this, contact
the Naval Special Warfare Group Two public affairs office at (757) 462-2282.
Chief Petty Officer Michael E. Koch, 29, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was slain by small-arms fire during anti-insurgent operations, the Navy announced Tuesday.
Koch’s parents — 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran Donald Koch of Coudersport and Jean Ann Burkholder of Corinth, Texas — were born and raised in Jersey Shore. His sister, Tiffany Barnard, lives in Loganton.
The young man visited the area just after Christmas, spending time with his father and grandparents, Mary Ann and Stephen Smeltzer of Linden, and Dolores and Floyd Koch of Jersey Shore, according to his aunt, Holly Smeltzer of Avis.
“He was such a wonderful man. We are so proud of him,” Holly said this morning as she talked about his recent holiday visit.
She said her nephew will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Mike’s mother and his brother, Matthew Koch, were told the news of Mike’s death while serving in Iraq themselves. Both are working with U.S. contractors there.
Matthew, who accompanied his brother’s body back to Virginia Beach on Tuesday, also served 6 years in the U.S. Navy, Holly said. Mike’s mother left for Virginia Beach yesterday afternoon.
Another aunt, Williamsport resident Dee Brown told a Virginia newspaper that Michael came from a family where military values run deep.
The family is so close, Brown said, that while Koch was going through his SEAL training in 1999 his father camped out in the woods, trying to put himself through some of the same experiences his son was enduring.
Family outings might include skydiving or scuba diving, Brown said.
Koch didn’t like to talk about his military experiences, according to Brown, though she said it was obvious he loved his work.
“He was humble,” she said. “He would prefer that we didn’t talk about it. He would just say, ‘It’s my job.’”
He and his sister were born on an Air Force base in Omaha, Nebraska, and Matthew was born on another base in New Mexico, Brown said.
Koch also leaves behind his fiancee, Kathy Howell of Virginia Beach. The couple was engaged for eight years.
After high school, Koch attended Penn State for a year and a half. He enlisted in the Navy in July 1998 and entered SEAL training in January 1999.
During his career, he received the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
In addition to fighting in Iraq, he also served
in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Michael Koch lived life like a Navy SEAL even before he became one.
Growing up, he learned to scuba dive, climb mountains and scale cliffs. During visits to his grandparents’ farm near Jersey Shore, he practiced rappelling by descending the silo.
“Always so full of life, so fun to be around, even with older people,” his grandmother, Delores Koch, said. “He was just such a good kid, always. It’s such a great loss for us.”
Small-arms fire killed Koch, a chief petty officer and special-warfare operator, on Monday in Iraq. Engaged, he was 29 and had served in the Navy since 1998 after attending Penn State for a year and a half.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, into an Air Force family, Koch enjoyed adventures wherever his father’s career took the family. One Christmas in New Mexico proved memorable for him and his younger brother, Matthew, and younger sister, Tiffany. Told to peek in the garage, they discovered a surprise.
“They went out, and there was a whole trailer full of motorcycles,” Delores Koch said.
On them, the family went riding in the hills, a prelude to the hikes, skydiving jumps and other excursions Michael Koch later shared with his father, Donald Koch. During a family reunion at the Jersey Shore farm last Christmas, they went snowmobiling, just the two of them, in mountain woods.
“It was really nice they had the time together,” Delores Koch said.
Donald Koch, staying in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where his son was stationed, could not be reached on Thursday.
After graduating from SEAL training in 1999, Michael Koch served in Kosovo and Afghanistan, winning the Bronze Star among other honors. His body was escorted back by his brother, a Navy veteran working in Iraq, and will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, his grandmother said.
“He always talked about the Navy SEALs,” she said. “He was so thankful he could be there. He loved his work.”
She recalled some of her last words to him over the holidays. “Be careful,” she said. He had a ready reply.
“I’m always careful, Gram. I’ll be OK.”
KOCH, MICHAEL E
Posted:6 February 2008 Updated: 8 February 2008 Updated: 16 March 2008 Updated: 1 May 2008 Updated: 8 July 2011
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 4 July 2011
Photo Courtesy of Holly, May 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, March 2008