The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
~ Archibald MacLeish (1941)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
~ Laurence Binyon (1914)
Tonight we stand in silent vigil for three young Americans who were killed this week in Iraq and Afghanistan. They weren’t with us long enough.
Spc. Steven R. Koch, 23, of Milltown, New Jersey
Spc. Koch died Mar. 3 in the Sabari District of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N. C.
Spc. Koch believed it was "his destiny" to serve in the military.
Steven Koch was still a student in East Brunswick High School on (Sept. 11, 2001), but his older brother, William Koch III, was working near the World Trade Center. In the hours he waited to hear from his brother, Steven decided he wanted to join the Army and to fight for his country, his family said.
"I talked him out of it for two years," said Steven's mother, Christine Koch. In 2006, her son decided he wouldn't be stopped, and he enlisted in March of that year.
"He loved his country. He said he would bleed on the American flag to keep the stripes red," a weeping Christine Koch said (Thursday) of Steven, who was killed in action Monday.
Koch had deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007. He was to come home (in) April.
"My husband and I are very proud of our son," said his mother, Christine Koch, during a brief phone interview. "He died for his country and he died loving his country."
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.
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 Capt. 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."
"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.
Cpl. Steven R. Koch had talked about enlisting in the Army since his days at East Brunswick High School.
And while his mother said she talked him out of joining for two years after he left, his mind was made up from the start. Nothing else he tried satisfied him, she said, and when he finally enlisted in March 2006, he had "found his calling."
"Steven was a true American, and he wanted to fight for his country," his mother, Christine Koch, said. "I wanted him home as a mother but he said he had a job to do."
He was remembered on Thursday by his family and friends for the sense of patriotism he developed growing up in a home where everything up to their cars had to be made in America (Koch's sister Lynne said "had to fight" for her Toyota).
He was deployed with the 508th Infantry Regiment to Afghanistan in January 2007. About a month before he left for his tour, Koch married his wife Amy, (whom he had known) since high school, at the courthouse in Spotswood, his father said.
As a pupil at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Milltown, Koch played basketball with family friends on a team coached by his father. It was one of the many ways in which Koch's family developed relationships with the families of other children there.
"This is how Steven grew up, in a family that was so close and in a community that was so close," said Marianne Tellone, a Koch family friend of 21 years.
Elizabeth Gleason, his fifth-grade teacher, said he visited the school in his uniform to talk to pupils before he left for his tour.
And Koch was remembered by the parish this week after news of his death spread - on Thursday, the flag outside the school was flown at half-staff. Gleason said the parishioners have been praying for him, and he was to receive a special mention at Friday's 9 a.m. mass.
Friends and family on Thursday came and went from the Koch home on Garden Terrace, a quiet neighborhood on Farringdon Lake tucked in a corner of the township. He was remembered around the street as a polite young man who was always willing to stop and help.
Koch, an avid reader and writer, "always had a smile on his face," according to several family members and neighbors. "He was a real jokester," his mother said. "I think that's how he got away from being afraid."
His family said his body had just returned to the U.S. around 8:30 on Wednesday night. There will be a ceremony at Our Lady of Lourdes next week, his mother said, but he will ultimately be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, because "he would want nothing more than to be buried with his soldiers."
"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."
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.
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."
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.
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, N.C., 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."
Spc. 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, Ga. During his service, Spc. Koch received the following awards and decorations: Bronze Star, 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.
Spc. Koch is survived by his wife, Amy, and their 18-month-old daughter, Zoe; his father and mother, William Jr. and Christine Koch; his sister, Lynne, and brother, Willam III; two grandmothers and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
A funeral service for Spc. Koch will be held next week at Our Lady of Lordes in Milltown, New Jersey, where he was an altar boy; the Army is arranging for his remains to be taken to Arlington National Cemetery.
Thank you, Spc. Koch. Your mission is done.
Sgt. Robert T. Rapp, 22, of Sonora, California
Sgt. Rapp died Mar. 3 in the Sabari District of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N. C.
Sgt. Rapp "wanted to serve our country and protect our country," his mother said. "He loved this country."
Army Sgt. Robert "Bobby" Rapp of Sonora was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, the military announced Wednesday.
Rapp, 22, was four weeks from the end of his deployment when the bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the gates of an Afghan government building he was guarding Monday, said his mother, Jennifer Rapp.
Rapp, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, enlisted after graduating from Sonora High School in 2004 as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, his mother said. He spent four months in Iraq in 2005.
"He said, 'Never again on our soil,' " Jennifer Rapp said. "He felt that he was working to protect America and help the people in those countries."
Two service members went to the Sonora home of Jennifer and Ted Rapp on Monday evening to break the news about their son.
"They knocked and I opened the door and I saw the military people there," Ted Rapp said. "That was the most horrible thing that can happen to you."
The Rapps recalled a son who had a love of country, a generous heart, an aptitude for sports -- and a mischievous streak.
"He was a pretty classic teen-ager," said his mother, a nurse at Sonora Regional Medical Center. "He was a rascal. Freshman year in high school, he ground up Ex-Lax, put it in his friend's sandwich and was promptly suspended."
Bobby Rapp was on the Sonora High School wrestling and cross country teams and on a race team at Dodge Ridge ski area from age 5 to 14. He also enjoyed hunting and golf.
"He was a giving person," said his father, an ultrasound technologist at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.
"No matter where in the world he was, he would always send his mother flowers for Mother's Day and her birthday and Christmas."
Bobby Rapp was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007. His mother said he could not tell her details about his work, but she did know that he was helping to train Afghan police and to bring food and other supplies to the people there.
Longtime friend Jena Anderson of Sonora said Rapp showed his generosity in Afghanistan, an impoverished country that harbored the Sept. 11 terrorists.
"The men treat the girls terribly over there, so when (the troops) gave away stuff, he would give some to the girls," she said.
"Bobby had the biggest heart," she said. "He was very outgoing. He was very generous and he loved people."
Rapp had not decided whether to re-enlist when his five-year commitment ended next year, his mother said. He hoped to eventually study kinesiology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, then return to Sonora to work as a physical therapist, she said.
Rapp knew the dangers in Afghanistan. Last year, he gave his family written instructions for his funeral, including a ceremonial rifle volley and playing of the rock classic "Stairway to Heaven."
"Let the world know I died doing what I love," he wrote, "and dying for my country is the greatest honor I could ever receive."
A decorated Army paratrooper, who was an avid outdoorsman and a talented athlete growing up in the California Gold Country town Sonora, was killed Monday while on duty in Afghanistan.
It was (Sgt. Robert) Rapp's second deployment in the Middle East after joining the Army upon his 2004 high school graduation.
Jennifer Rapp, Rapp's mother, said her son was a patriot and a committed soldier. She also said that his view of his role in the military had evolved since his first tour of duty.
"He went to Iraq as a very young man (in 2005) ... he lost his roommate and best friend," said Jennifer Rapp. "He went to Afghanistan as a sergeant and he said his biggest responsibility was to bring his men home alive."
Jennifer Rapp said that her son always had an interest in the military. She said he played with G.I. Joe toys when he was a very young boy. He also showed an early interest and talent in sports, joining an area ski team at age 6 and becoming an accomplished wrestler, golfer, cross-country runner and dove hunter.
"Bobby had a heart of gold and was one of the most generous and kind people that you could ever know," Jennifer Rapp said. "He said there was no greater honor than to serve his country."
Jennifer Rapp said that Robert had one year left of his commitment to the military and that he was originally scheduled to come home in January, but that his unit's tour was extended to mid-April.
"He wanted to serve our country and protect our country," Jennifer Rapp said. "He loved this country."
The Modesto Bee lead its editorial page yesterday with a tribute to Sgt. Rapp:
Death tolls take on new meaning when names and faces are attached. We're reminded of that this week with the news that a 22-year-old soldier from Sonora was killed in Afghanistan. From the descriptions provided by friends and family, Army Sgt. Robert Rapp sounded like a fine young man, generous, cheerful, caring and willing and proud to serve his country. Recognizing that he was at risk, Sgt. Rapp wrote instructions to his family in case of his death, and his words were striking: "Let the world know I died doing what I love, and dying for my country is the greatest honor I could ever receive." We extend our sincerest sympathy to Sgt. Rapp's parents, brother, other family members and his hometown.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Wednesday) released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Rapp:
"The people of California are forever indebted to Sergeant Robert Rapp for his extraordinary leadership, valor and dedication to this country. His sacrifice reminds us of the selflessness exhibited every day by the courageous men and women of our armed forces. Maria and I join all Californians in extending our deepest sympathies to Robert's family and friends as they mourn the loss of an American hero."
In honor of Sgt. Rapp, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
After basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. in 2004, Sgt. Rapp served in Iraq near the border of Syria. During his service, Sgt. Rapp was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal and several other honors.
Sgt. Rapp is survived by his parents, Jennifer and Ted Rapp, and an older brother, Patrick Rapp.
Sgt. Rapp’s remains will be flown early next week to the airport in Columbia or Modesto; his family is planning a funeral service later next week.
Thank you, Sgt. Rapp. Your mission is done.
Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Frost, 24, of Waukesha, Wisconsin
Staff Sgt. Frost died March 3 near Bayji, Iraq in a crash of an Iraqi Army Mi-17 helicopter. He was assigned to the 377th Air Base Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
"He wasn’t with us long enough. What really is 24 years?" Staff Sgt. Frost’s father said.
Gary Frost said there are more words than he could speak about his son Christopher’s too few years.
"He wasn’t with us long enough. What really is 24 years?" Frost said.
"The Air Force lost a great airman, the country lost a great patriot and Wisconsin lost a great cheesehead," said his friend and former supervisor, Morgan O’Brien.
Stationed in Iraq since September, Frost worked with the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq, the group training Iraqi security forces.
As an aspiring photojournalist, Christopher Scott Frost wouldn't stop until he got that one shot that would bring a story to life, his father said Wednesday.
And as a member of the U.S. Air Force serving in Iraq, he got to employ his relentless pursuit of stories as an editor of a military publication, Gary Frost said.
"He was ecstatic when one of his stories got picked up by a Spokane, Washington, newspaper," Gary Frost said in a telephone interview Wednesday night, after learning that his son had been killed in Iraq. "He is esteemed by the people who worked around him for his willingness to tackle any assignment or any mission."
Christopher Frost, a graduate of Mukwonago High School from the Town of Vernon, worked in public affairs as editor of The Advisor, a semimonthly publication of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, his father said.
He enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school and was deployed to Iraq in fall, Gary Frost said.
"He loved the challenge and the relentlessness of his job," he said. "He had high hopes of being a top journalist someday."
He never forgot about those around him, his father said.
"When he would ask to have stuff sent from home, whether it was batteries, candies or snacks, it would not be for him," he said. "It would be for the kids or the troops out in the field for whom he had the utmost respect."
Christopher Frost's grandmother, Mary Jean Frost of Waukesha, said she took care of him from the age of 4 months until he started first grade so that both his parents could work.
"He and I used to go away for a couple days up north by ourselves," she continued. "We had a lot of good times together. It's hard for me to know he's gone. I can't even imagine it. He was a wonderful person."
The final Press Release Staff Sgt. Frost penned for The Advisor can be read here. It is dated March 1, 2008.
You can see some of Staff Sgt. Frost’s photos and read some of his thoughts about them here.
In addition to his father and grandmother, Staff Sgt. Frost is survived by his daughter
and his son.
Thank you, Staff Sgt. Frost. Your mission is done.
To date, 3975 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. Of these, 102 have been women. The death toll for March is already 2. More than 30,000 men and women have been wounded, and 145 have taken their own lives while on active duty. All of the fatalities can be seen here. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start of each entry in this diary was drawn, can be seen here. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least 100,000. At least 53 Iraqis were killed and more than 130 wounded in a terrible set of bombing incidents last Thursday.
To date, 485 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The death toll thus far for 2008 is 10. 289 members of the military from other countries have also lost their lives.
Other sites have stories, video, pictures and remembrances, including: Honor the Fallen.
If you want to do something to assist our military and their families, please visit anysoldier.com or Fisher House. If you have frequent flyer miles you would like to donate to hospitalized veterans or their families, please see Fisher House’s Hero Miles program. Finally, if you would like to assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here.
And don’t forget them when they get home! Read welcomebackveterans.org to learn what you can do.
I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remind. Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, silvercedes, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, Wee Mama, twilight falling, labwitchy, moneysmith, joyful, roses, SisTwo, Avila, SpamNunn, a girl in MI and me, noweasels. These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but, we believe, an important service to those Americans who have died, and to our community’s respect for and remembrance of them. If you would like to volunteer, even once a month, please contact Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, or me, noweasels.
As you read this diary, please consider that the families and friends of those profiled here also may read it and that many members of our community have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or have loved ones currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the very proud daughter of a Navy pilot, and the granddaughter of a Marine pilot and a submariner, I hope that the comments tonight will demonstrate our respect for the sacrifices of our fallen military and our compassion for their families, whatever our personal feelings about the war and occupation happen to be.