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Army Cpl. Steven R. Koch

Died March 3, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

23, of Milltown, N.J.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed March 3 in the Sabari District of Afghanistan of wounds sustained during combat operations. Also killed was Sgt. Robert T. Rapp.

2 N.C.-based soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — Two soldiers based in North Carolina were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated outside a government building in the Sabari District of eastern Afghanistan, the Defense Department said March 5.

Spc. Steven R. Koch, 23, of Milltown, was one of two U.S. soldiers killed by the blast March 3. The second soldier was identified as Sgt. Robert T. Rapp, 22, of Sonora, Calif.

Both were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Koch is survived by his wife, Amy, and a daughter, Zoe, both of Spotswood; his parents, Christine and William Koch of Milltown; and a brother, William Koch, also of Milltown.

“My husband and I are very proud of our son,” his mother told The Star-Ledger of Newark on Wednesday night. “He died for his country and he died loving his country.”

His mother said Koch had nearly completed his 15-month tour of duty and was due home next month.

Koch joined the Army in March 2006 and took airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga.

The 82nd said March 6 that Rapp is survived by his parents, Theodore C. and Jennifer P. Rapp, and his brother, Patrick M. Rapp, all of Sonora, Calif.

Rapp joined the Army in June 2004 and was assigned to the airborne division in December 2004.

Patriot is bid farewell

By Joshua Burd

(East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune

Standing before the hundreds of people who filled Our Lady of Lourdes R.C. Church, the Rev. Edward Czarcinski drew a comparison between Jesus Christ and Cpl. Steven R. Koch.

“We see the parallel between Steven, who gave his life for others, and Christ, who gave his life for us,” he said.

Koch, the 23-year-old Army paratrooper from East Brunswick who was killed earlier this month while serving in Afghanistan, was honored by family, fellow servicemen and the community at a Funeral Mass Thursday morning.

Hundreds gathered at the Milltown church and many more stood outside during an emotional service.

Originating at the Selover Funeral Home in North Brunswick, the funeral procession arrived at the church at 10 a.m. on a North Main Street block lined with hundreds of civilian and uniformed onlookers.

Members of Koch’s family, including his parents and siblings, walked behind the hearse and the Middlesex County Police & Fire Pipes & Drums band that led the march.

After a salute, a group of seven uniformed soldiers from Koch’s own 82nd Airborne Division carried the casket, which was draped in the American flag, into the church.

Inside, with Koch’s family seated in the front right pews, the Mass began with a dedication to the fallen soldier, who served as an altar boy and attended the parish school through eighth grade. Family members, uniformed officers and staff and pupils from the school listened to readings about laying down one’s life for a friend.

In a moving homily, Czarcinski, the church’s pastor, said Koch died serving in a foreign country, protecting people whom he didn’t even know. He added that he “did his duty as so many young men and women are doing at this hour.”

“They put their lives on the line for the sake of others,” he said. “They put their lives on the line for the sake of patriotism. And what is patriotism but another word for love?”

The pastor then expressed his hope that others would learn from Koch’s example and be willing to “lay down our lives” for someone else, literally and figuratively.

“There is no greater love then to give up your lives for your friends,” he said.

Near the end of the Mass, the kilted pipes and drums band marched through the aisles before a final prayer given by the chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division. Minutes later, the service was closed and the teary-eyed attendees filed outside.

Several friends remained in front of the church after the service and said they were moved by the bittersweet ceremony.

“It made you proud to be an American, and you realized why Steven loved his country so much,” said Marianne Tellone, a longtime family friend. “But it breaks your heart when you see the faces of those soldiers in church.”

At a gathering held afterward at a local American Legion hall, Koch’s family received several posthumous awards on his behalf, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Koch, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of corporal, is to be buried today with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He is also due to receive the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal.

Koch was due home next month after a 15-month tour of duty. He was killed March 3 while serving in the Sahari District of Afghanistan after an explosion caused a wall to collapse on him.

Flags around the state on Thursday were to be flown at half-staff for Koch, who joined the Army in March 2006 and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in August of that year. He was deployed with the 508th Infantry Regiment to Afghanistan in January 2007.

Koch is survived by his wife, Amy, and a daughter, Zoe, both of Spotswood; his parents, Christine and William Koch Jr. of East Brunswick, his sister, Lynne, and his brother, William Koch III.

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