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John F Kurth


A soldier everyone in Columbus knew as Hans looked forward to making a difference in Iraq.

“Since he was a young man, he always lived his life surrounded with discipline,” said Travis DeBussey, a friend from their days together at Columbus High School. “He just loved the Army. … He wouldn’t regret one second of it.”

“He just said they were going to be heading into Iraq and monitoring a section of the highway” in the Tikrit area, Retta Kurth said. John and Retta Kurths had last seen their son at Christmas.

“Hans was looking forward to going over there and hopefully making (the situation in Iraq) better,” John Kurth said. He said his son was “definitely well liked. He got along with everyone.”

“He was a real dedicated student,” Retta Kurth said, committing himself to whatever he set as his goals. Those goals were often lofty.

Kurth was a standout athlete in high school, and as a senior played on Columbus’ 1990 state championship football team. “It’s a pretty sad day in Columbus right now,” said Ivan Thies, an assistant football coach on that team who learned of Kurth’s death Sunday at church. “It’s just so sad that something like this happens to a fine boy.” Thies remembers Kurth as No. 53 – a dependable defensive lineman. “He was really fast,” Thies said. “There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him. He was a very dependable person, and that’s what you need on a football team. He was top shelf.”

Kurth was also a wrestler, and DeBussey recalled how his friend would go around smelling other peoples’ food, but not eat anything when he was trying to make weight. “We had a lot of good times,” said DeBussey, who met Kurth in grade school and became good friends with him in high school. Kurth was a pretty straight-laced guy – “It was fun to get him to loosen up a bit,” he said.

Kurth recently did that during the Christmas visit, when he and Joe Vale, another old Columbus friend who lives in Madison, cut loose with some other friends on a rabbit-hunting trip. “We shot at about eight rabbits and got one,” Vale said, but he and Kurth talked a little about the military during the trip. “He was very at ease and excited about the opportunities to do what he was trained to do,” Vale said.

Kurth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with the class of 1995. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, serving in Kosovo twice, but this was his first duty in Iraq, and his unit has been there less than a month. Kurth had been stationed in Germany for three years and commanded an infantry company.

Kurth leaves a 5-year-old son, John Aleksander Kurth, who lives with his mother in South Carolina. DeBussey said he got to see Kurth briefly at Christmas and also got to meet his son. “He’s a perfect son for Hans – all wild and wound up – I loved every second of it,” DeBussey said.


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