Steven Robert Koch
Corporal, United States Army
U.S. Department of Defense
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 0182-08
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
They died March 3, 2008, in the Sabari District of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Specialist Steven R. Koch, 23, of Milltown, New Jersey (Postmously promoted to Corporal)
Sergeant Robert T. Rapp, 22, of Sonora, California
For more information media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at (910) 432-0661
Like so many on September 11, 2001, Steven Koch endured the excruciating wait to learn the fate of a loved one.
His older brother had been working near the Twin Towers, and in the hours between the buildings' collapse and the news his brother had made it out alive, the high school student made a life-altering decision.
He would join the Army and fight for his country.
Seven years after making that promise, and two years after following through on it, Koch was remembered by friends and family members in Middlesex County as an unshakable patriot.
"He loved his country," Koch's mother, Christine, said yesterday, a day after the military announced her son's death in Afghanistan. "He said he would bleed on the American flag to keep the stripes red."
To Koch, a 23-year-old Corporal in the 82nd Airborne Division, it wasn't just talk, his family said. A page he kept on MySpace carried the Airborne Creed -- a paean to pride and honor -- along with quotations from Winston Churchill and a pledge to fight terrorism no matter the cost.
Christine Koch, worried about her son's safety, said she tried for years to keep him from enlisting. Early in 2006, Steven Koch decided he would no longer be stopped.
He deployed to Afghanistan in January of last year and was due home April 20, when he would be reunited with his wife, Amy, and the their 15-month-old daughter, Zoe.
"He was so determined to be the best," Amy Koch said yesterday in the couple's Spotswood apartment. "When he got to the top of something, he wanted to move on. He was going to try for Special Forces. I admired his determination."
As she spoke, blond-haired Zoe scampered from room to room, a mirror-image, Amy Koch said, of her father.
"She's all him," the wife said. "She's a go-getter. She'll go after something and try and try and try."
Steven Koch was at least the ninth service member with New Jersey ties to die in Afghanistan since the war began. An additional 88 service members with ties to the state have died in Iraq.
The military said Koch was killed Monday when a car bomb caused a wall to collapse on him in Sabari District, part of Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan. The region has been the scene of renewed fighting by the Taliban and other extremist groups.
A graduate of East Brunswick High School, Koch grew up in a tight-knit family that lived for a time in North Brunswick before settling in East Brunswick, by the Milltown border.
Koch, his brother, William, and a sister, Lynne, attended elementary school at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, where he was an altar boy and where his parents still volunteer. The soldier's funeral will be held there next week.
Despite the difficult conditions in Afghanistan, Koch loved soldiering and remained committed to the mission, his family said. A photo of Koch in uniform, standing before an American flag, takes a place of honor on the mantel of his parents' East Brunswick home.
"This was his destiny," Christine Koch said.
A family friend, Marianne Tellone, said the community has been hit hard by the death, with word filtering through the parish and schools. At East Brunswick High, she said, one teacher showed her class Koch's yearbook photo.
"I've had so many phone calls from people," Tellone said.
Amy Koch said she'd been looking forward to her husband's return home next month. In recent weeks, she said, the two spoke frequently, with Koch sometimes calling from Afghanistan twice a day. This week, the calls were from her husband's fellow soldiers offering their condolences.
The couple had planned to move near Fort Bragg, North Caroluna, where Koch was to be stationed, and already had an apartment picked out. Instead, she'll remain in New Jersey to raise Zoe.
Pointing to her daughter, Amy Koch said, "Be
sure to say that she's going to know how proud we are of her dad, how he
was a hero."
Steven R. Koch, a 23-year-old soldier from New Jersey scheduled to return home next month was killed in Afghanistan, military officials and family members said tonight.
Army Corporal Steven R. Koch, 23, of Milltown in Middlesex County, died Monday in the Sabari District of Afghanistan of wounds suffered during combat operations, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
"My husband and I are very proud of our son," said his mother, Christine Koch, during a brief phone interview tonight. "He died for his country and he died loving his country."
An assistant gunner, Koch was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Defense Department officials said.
Koch is survived by a wife, Amy, and daughter, Zoe, both of Spotswood, military officials said. He also leaves a brother, William, and his parents, William and Christine Koch, all of Milltown.
Steven Koch had completed his 15-month tour of duty, and was due home next month, his mother said. "This is so difficult, it's too new, I hardly believe he's gone," Christine Koch said.
Defense Department officials said Koch died of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near the Sabari District Center. A second soldier, Sgt. Robert T. Rapp, 22, of Sonora, California, also was killed in the attack.
Koch is the 97th service member with ties to New Jersey killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He was promoted posthumously to corporal from specialist, according to military officials.
"Corporal Koch was a highly dedicated paratrooper," said Captain Henry Rowland, the 1st Battalion, 508th PIR rear detachment commander. "He was dedicated not only to his profession but also in serving this great nation."
Koch joined the Army in March 2006. He arrived to the 82nd Airborne Division in August 2006, after completing Infantry One Station Unit Training and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
"He will be sorely missed by all of those who knew him, and our thoughts are with his family during their time of grief," Rowland said.
Koch's decorations include the Bronze Star
Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct
Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. He also was awarded the Afghanistan
Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service
Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantryman's
Badge, and the Parachutist's Badge, military officials said.
Funeral services have been scheduled for Corporal Steven R. Koch, 23, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, who was killed last week in Afghanistan.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Selover Funeral Home, 555 Georges Road, North Brunswick.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Milltown. Koch will be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Koch was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near the Sabari District Center in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said. Sergeant Robert T. Rapp, 22, of Sonora, California, also was killed in the attack.
An assistant gunner, Koch was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Defense Department said.
Koch had completed his 15-month tour of duty and was due home next month, his mother said last week.
Koch is survived by his wife, Amy, and 15-month-old daughter, Zoe; his parents, William and Christine Koch of East Brunswick; a brother, William Koch III of East Brunswick, and a sister, Lynne Koch of Hackensack.
He was at least the ninth service member with New Jersey ties to die in Afghanistan since the war began. An additional 88 service members with ties to the state have died in Iraq.
Koch joined the Army in March 2006. He came
to the 82nd Airborne in August 2006, after completing Infantry One Station
Unit Training and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
20 March 2008:
Hundreds gathered last week to honor and pay final respects to United State Army Corporal Steven R. Koch, 23, who gave his life to protect his country.
"He was an outstanding young man from the time he was a little boy," said Tom Olsen, a longtime family friend. "It's a sad day for the whole community."
The sidewalks surrounding Our Lady of Lourdes Church on North Main Street were lined with people March 13 as the funeral procession for the paratrooper made its way toward the church. Students from Our Lady of Lourdes School, where Koch once attended, waved American flags from the sidelines, and the Middlesex County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums band filled the crisp morning air with solemn sounds. Military colleagues stood at attention. The deceased soldier's family members followed the hearse at the end of the procession.
"Jesus teaches us that a man can have no greater love than to give up his life for his friends," Czarcinski said. "Steven showed his love by making the ultimate sacrifice."
The pastor compared Koch's sacrifice to that of Jesus Christ, saying both gave their lives to help others.He spoke of the soldier's courage and patriotism, citing conversations Koch had with his parents while serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. According to Czarcinski, Koch said he was needed there, and was willing to place himself in harm's way to protect others.
"He said he'd bleed on the flag to keep it red. He was a true soldier," Koch's mother Christine, of East Brunswick, told Greater Media Newspapers last week.
The dedicated and decorated soldier lost his life March 3 when a vehicle-borne explosive device detonated, causing a wall to collapse on him in the Sabari district of Afghanistan. Having joined the Army in March 2006, Koch was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007 and was scheduled to return home next month.
Despite his mother's concerned attempts to discourage her youngest child's desire to serve, Koch had become impassioned about defending America after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to family and friends. Koch's brother William worked in close proximity to the World Trade Center at the time of the tragedy, and family members were wracked with fear until they were able to reach him that day.
Students from Our Lady of Lourdes School, where Koch once attended, were among those taking part in the funeral procession and paying respects to the late soldier. The last time Koch spoke with his parents was on February 29, three days before his death. He spoke to his wife, Amy, also the mother of his 18-month-old daughter, Zoe, the day before he died, according to Amy's aunt, Maryann White.
White said the couple was planning a move from Spotswood to North Carolina, where Koch was to be stationed in April.
"Our prayers are just with her and the baby,"White said. "She'll have great love and support. His family has been wonderful with that."
Czarcinski also prayed for baby Zoe, voicing his hope that the community will extend itself for her just as Koch extended himself for others.
"May she always be reminded of her dad's greatness, her dad's sacrifice, and his great love for her now, and his great love for her forever," Czarcinski said.
Amy and Koch's sister Lynne brought the sacramental gifts of communion wafers and wine, representing the body and blood of Christ, to the altar. A wash of sunlight filtered through the stained-glass windows of the packed church while the two grieving women took part in the communion preparations.
As the funeral Mass came to a close, the bagpipers marched into the church to play a rendition of "Amazing Grace." The large crowd filed out of the church after the coffin, many of them tearful as they said their last goodbyes.
"He was just such a good person, such a good friend," said Jessica Molina, who attended high school with Koch.
Molina recalled visits Koch paid to her at her job during their high school days in East Brunswick, when he would skateboard in the area. She said Koch stands out in her mind as someone always willing to go out of his way for his friends when they needed him.
Another friend, Jesse Ragan, of Spotswood, agreed.
"He was definitely there for me a lot of times when no one else was," Ragan said.
Family friends who knew Koch as a youngster said his parents were very involved in both the Our Lady of Lourdes church and school, always contributing their time and help.
"He grew up with that example," said Marianne Tellone, of Somerville.
Tellone's husband, Ralph, recalled the strong bond forged with the Koch family and others in their close-knit group years ago, when their children attended school together. He said they all took part in raising each other's kids.
"It was the community, it was one big family," he said. "The whole community was the support group. The support group doesn't go away. It was years ago, but it came right back."
The Tellones' son Justin, 23, formed a long-lasting friendship with Koch in their youth. The two served as altar boys and played basketball together, he said.
Mark Vitanza served as basketball coach to Koch atOur Lady of Lourdes alongside the boy's father years ago. He remembered Koch's visit to the school about a year ago, when he donned his uniform to spend time talking with students there.
According to Ralph Tellone, Koch strove for excellence in the Army. During training exercises in Georgia, he would seek out the largest soldier to go after in order to challenge himself.
"He was a soldier's soldier," Tellone said.
Koch's ardent commitment to his country earned him numerous awards, including the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge and Parachutist's Badge. He was to be awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously, and be given a hero's burial atArlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
"It is a loss to the country, not just the family," Marianne Tellone said. "That's why his mother calls him an American treasure."
The family has requested that donations be
made to the Corporal Steven R. Koch Fund, in care of William Koch Jr.,
8 Garden Terrace, Milltown, NJ, 08850.
KOCH, STEVEN R
Posted: 9 March 2008 Updated: 20 April 2008 Updated: 1 May 2008 Updated: 2 September 2009 Updated: 17 September 2009 Updated: 12 September 2009 Updated: 24 October 2009
Updated: 31 October 2009 Updated: 7 Npvember 2009 Updated: 8 November 2009 Updated: 14 November 2009 Updated: 22 October 2009 Updated: 11 December 2009 Updated: 24 December 2009 Updated: 29 December 2009 Updated: 10 January 2010 Updated: 25 January 2010 Updated: 15 May 2010 Updated: 14 June 2010 Updated: 13 December 2010 Updated: 23 December 2010 Updated: 12 February 2011 Updated: 8 Jul;y 2011 Updated 6 August 2012
Photos By M. R. Patterson, 4 July 2011 (Last Photo: MR atterson Grandchildren Placing Roses For Corporal Koch)
Photo By M. R. Patterson, February 2011
Steven's Christmas Wreath From "Wreaths Across America" Photo By Eileen Horan, December 2010
Photos By Holly, December 2009
Photos By John Michael, December 2009
Photos By Holly, 10 December 2009
Photos By Holly, 22 November 2009
Photo Courtesy of Holly, May 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, April 2008