Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gary A. Koehler killed in combat

Gary Koehler, who graduated in 2003 and recently married, died during a battle believed to be on Tuesday. The Department of Defense did not release details of his death as of this morning. However, news of Mr. Koehler's death traveled fast through the Milan community.

High school coaches and school officials remembered Mr. Koehler as a dedicated athlete who volunteered to be deployed to the war a second time even after suffering a gunshot wound about 1½ years ago.

Milan football Coach Steve Robb remembered visiting with Mr. Koehler, who showed him his scar after he was shot in the thigh. Coach Robb assumed at the time that his former defensive lineman was done with the war, but Mr. Koehler chose to be redeployed.

"He said he had to go back because he couldn't let down the guys in his platoon," Coach Robb said this morning.

"He was a warrior. He wanted to do what he could for his country."

Mr. Koehler married Hilary Moss, who was on the Milan swim team. The couple reportedly had a civil ceremony and was planning a formal wedding ceremony later.

Mr. Koehler's parents moved to New Mexico and could not be reached for comment. His wife's family members, who live in Ypsilanti, declined to comment.

While at Milan, Mr. Koehler played football and baseball. In football, he was named first team All-Huron League and was the second leading tackler on the team in his senior year, Coach Robb said.

He was first team All-Region in football as well.

"He was a high school football coach's dream," he said. "He set goals for himself and worked very hard to achieve those goals."

Adam Gilles said he coached Mr. Koehler in baseball all four years of his high school career. He was a starting leftfielder.

"He was a leader on the team and it didn't matter how old he was," Coach Gilles said. "He would just go all out all the time. He was a great kid. Everybody liked him."

Coach Gilles said Mr. Koehler was probably the best hitter on the team in his senior year and was a natural leader. He said that would explain his desire to join the Marines.

"It takes a special person to be a Marine," Coach Gilles said. "He was the type of kid who could do it. Everyone wanted to be around him."

Coach Gilles said Mr. Koehler was expected to come home a week ago but was held over. He was then killed during the extended stay.

Coach Robb said when they last spoke, Mr. Koehler told him he was trying to be trained as a sniper. He wasn't sure if he succeeded his goal. But Coach Robb said knowing Mr. Koehler the way he did, he would not be surprised if he achieved everything he set out to be.

From the Monroe News