- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Inherent Resolve
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
- U.S. Central Command operations
- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Spc. Dustin K. McGaugh
Died September 30, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
20, of Derby, Kan.; assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla.; died from a non-hostile gunshot wound on Sept. 30 in Balad, Iraq.
Small town loses another serviceman in Iraq
DERBY, Kan. — Two young men who called this south-central Kansas town their home have now died in Iraq, both since major fighting was declared over May 1 and both from what were called non-combat gunshot wounds.
Army Spc. Dustin K. McGaugh this week died in Balad. The Defense Department and Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s office said Thursday that he died after being wounded by non-hostile fire.
On June 15, Pfc. Ryan Cox, a 19-year-old Marine and 2002 graduate of Derby High School, died near Najaf. Military officials told his family that an accidental discharge of another soldier’s weapon struck Cox in the abdomen.
A third serviceman from Derby died this year in Afghanistan. Sgt. Jamie Maugans, 27, an ordnance disposal specialist stationed in San Diego, was killed April 15 while disposing of explosives near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The Defense Department said the incident in which McGaugh was killed was under investigation, and little other information about the death Tuesday was immediately available.
McGaugh, 20, was assigned to the headquarters battery of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade in Fort Sill, Okla., said Chuck Knapp, a spokesman for Tiahrt, R-Kan.
The soldier’s father, James McGaugh of Springdale, Ark., said McGaugh grew up there and graduated from high school in Tulsa, Okla., in 2001.
“All the Army’s said at this point was his death was from friendly fire and that the case is not closed,” the elder McGaugh said.
Dustin McGaugh lived in Derby only during the summer of 2001 and on occasional leaves after he joined the Army later that year, but he considered it his hometown. In Derby, he stayed with Eric and Angie Fischer, who he came to know because his twin sister Windy was a friend of one of their daughters. She has been living with the Fischers for several years.
“From the beginning, Dusty and Windy integrated into our family,” Angie Fischer said. “It was like they belonged here.”
James McGaugh said his son enlisted in the Army before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“He wanted to serve and be part of something important,” he said.
The soldier’s brother, James D. McGaugh of Claremore, Okla., said he was in boot camp at the time of the attacks, and the family knew that meant war.
“Everyone loved him,” his father said. “A soldier who served with him told me the Iraqi kids loved him because he handed out candy from his Jeep. He was a good one.”
The Fischers said that when McGaugh talked to them from Iraq, he told them his unit frequently came under fire. Angie Fischer said the family wants an investigation of how he died, but that details of what happened are in a way moot.
The key thing, she said, is that “he was a part of this war effort. That’s what we’re focusing on — the sacrifice that he made.”
The most important message from his death, she said, is this: “There are still people dying over there on our behalf. It’s for every one of us. And some of us are paying a huge price.”
Angie Fischer said McGaugh was “realistic” about the risks in Iraq. While he told them he was afraid, she said he also said, “I believe in this. I want to serve our country.”
Eric Fischer, a former member of the Derby City Council, said McGaugh was so dedicated that he finished his last three weeks of basic training despite breaking a shin bone when he fell while running. He said McGaugh would not report his injury because he wanted to graduate on time.
“He went ahead and just toughed it out,” Fischer said.
McGaugh had left his things in closets at the Fischer home, except for his high school diploma, his sister said. She said he was so proud of it because there were so many odds against his graduating that he took it with him when he went away to the Army.
Angie Fischer said Windy McGaugh and her brother had a bond. Within the hour before she learned about her brother’s death, one of her friends had asked Windy where she most wanted to be.
“I would be anywhere I could be as long as I was with my brother,” she told the friend, saying she wanted to take him to Hawaii.
“She just had that sense that she needed to be with him,” Angie Fischer said.
In addition to his father, brother and sister, McGaugh is survived by his mother, Marina Hayes of Tulsa, Okla., and stepmother, Katrina McGaugh of Springdale.
Arkansas soldier killed in Iraq
SPRINGDALE, Ark. — A 20-year-old soldier from here was killed by friendly fire in Iraq, the soldier’s father said.
Spc. Dustin K. “Dusty” McGaugh was killed Sept. 30 about 50 north of Baghdad. His father, James McGaugh of Springdale, said the Army is still investigating how his son died.
McGaugh died Tuesday in Balad, Iraq. He a part of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade of Fort Sill, Okla. The Army listed his hometown as Derby, Kan.
“All the Army’s said at this point was his death was from friendly fire and that the case is not closed,” James McGaugh told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
James McGaugh said his son grew up in Springdale and joined the Army ROTC after he graduated from high school in 2001 in Tulsa, Okla. McGaugh’s unit was sent to the Middle East in the spring. McGaugh said his son enlisted before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“We weren’t in any type of conflict when he enlisted, and he liked the idea of belonging to a group with a big camaraderie, a family type situation,” James McGaugh said. “He wanted to serve and be part of something important.”
James McGaugh said the Army notified him Wednesday of his son’s death.
“Everyone loved him,” James McGaugh said of his youngest son. “A soldier who served with him told me the Iraqi kids loved him because he handed out candy from his Jeep. He was a good one. We’re going to miss him.”
— Associated Press