Ringgold soldier's remains return from Afghanistan

Ringgold soldier's remains return from Afghanistan

July 22nd, 2011 by Todd South in News

An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. Edward W. Koehler during a dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Wednesday. According to the Department of Defense, Koehler, of Ringgold, Ga., died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. (AP)

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Ringgold soldier Sgt. Edward Koehler was killed in Afghanistan. This is a photo from Koehler's Marine Corps days. It was taken in the 1980s and shared by his family.

AFGHANISTAN CASUALTIES


A total of 1,676 American military personnel have been confirmed dead in the war in Afghanistan. At least nine service members with connections to the Chattanooga area have been killed.

The following have ties to this region:

• Spc. Nathan Lillard, of Knoxville, was one of five soldiers killed Nov. 14, 2010, in Afghanistan.

• Sgt. Patrick Durham of the Suck Creek community was killed Aug. 28, 2010, in Afghanistan.

• Pfc. Jonathon Hall died from wounds received when a bomb blast struck his vehicle April 8, 2010.

• Lance Cpl. Gregory Posey, 22, of Winchester, Tenn., was killed July 30, 2009, in Afghanistan.

• Sgt. Raymundo "Ray" Morales, 34, of Dawnville, Ga., was killed July 21, 2009, in Afghanistan.

• Lance Cpl. Seth Sharp, 20, of Adairsville, Ga., was killed July 2, 2009.

• 1st Sgt. John Blair, of Calhoun, Ga., was killed June 20, 2009, in Afghanistan.

• Sgt. Jeffery William Jordan, 21, of Cave Spring, Ga., was one of three soldiers from a Georgia National Guard unit killed in Afghanistan June 4, 2009.

Source: Department of Defense, icasualties.org

Father, husband, truck driver, Marine and soldier -- Sgt. Edward Koehler filled those roles.

In a truck convoy far from his newly adopted home of Ringgold, Ga., a roadside bomb explosion killed him and two other soldiers Monday in Afghanistan.

Reached by phone Thursday, Koehler's aunt, Joyce Koehler, said her nephew had married and moved to Ringgold in May 2010.

Koehler's mother, Ruth, and wife, Cheryl, could not be reached Thursday.

In a statement released by the Pennsylvania National Guard, where Koehler served, the family expressed appreciation for the "heartfelt condolences and prayers."

"Please know this thoughtfulness is providing much needed comfort. Continue to pray for all of our troops and their safety. Their daily sacrifices must not go unnoticed," the family's statement said.

The 47-year-old soldier had two adult daughters, Tobi and Kayla Koehler, and a stepdaughter, Mariah Barigham, according to Guard information.

Koehler served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating in 1982 from Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania. He left the military for 10 years before joining the Guard in 1997.

"As a former Marine noncommissioned officer, Edward Koehler was known for his impeccable military bearing and eagerness to challenge himself and those around him," Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania adjutant general, said in the release.

"When he was a private in the Marine Corps, Koehler took pride in playing taps at the end of each day while his company was deployed to Diego Garcia. Unfortunately it is now our solemn duty to play taps for him," Craig said.

Diego Garcia is a tropical island in the central Indian Ocean that hosts American military facilities.

Koehler worked as a commercial truck driver in his civilian life and a military truck driver in the Guard. In 2003, he deployed for nearly a year, first to Kuwait then into Iraq, with the Williamstown, Pa.-based 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group.

The unit again deployed in January, this time to Afghanistan.

Preparing for deployment, Koehler drove more than 680 miles each way from Ringgold to Williamstown for monthly training, said Sgt. Matt Jones, Pennsylvania National Guard spokesman.

Two other soldiers died and five more were wounded in the Monday IED blast in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, near Bagram Air Base, according to the release. Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. Vangiesen, 30, of Erie, Pa., and Sgt. Brian K. Mowery, 49, of Halifax, Pa., were killed.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these brave young men who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of this country," said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. "This tragic incident is a stark reminder of the dangers our troops face on a daily basis for the cause of freedom. We owe them our respect, our support and our gratitude."

Jones said the three casualties were the first for the transportation company, which has about 100 soldiers deployed. The unit is due to return home in November, pending Army needs.

Jones did not have full details but said Koehler's family members are planning a memorial service for him in Georgia.

In the week preceding Koehler's death, 11 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan. Two more died Tuesday in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Meigs County, Tenn., Marine Pfc. Brandon Kyle Pendergrass survived a bomb blast July 16 in Afghanistan with nonlife-threatening injuries.

Since 2001, at least 1,676 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan. Koehler is at least the ninth service member with connections to the Chattanooga area to be killed.

Last year, nearly 500 members of the American military were killed in the conflict, the highest year total in the decadelong war. So far this year, at least 230 have died, according to the nonprofit website icasualties.org.