Click to Download Portrait
MILLTOWN, NJ, USA U.S. Army CPL, COMPANY D, 1ST BATTALION, 508TH INFANTRY, FORT BRAGG, NC SABARI, AFGHANISTAN 03/03/2008
Like so many on September 11, 2001, Steven Koch endured the excruciating wait to learn the fate of a loved one. His older brother had been working near the Twin Towers, and in the hours between the buildings’ collapse and the news his brother had made it out alive, the high school student made a life-altering decision.
He would join the Army and fight for his country. Seven years after making that promise, and two years after following through on it, Koch was remembered by friends and family members in Middlesex County as an unshakable patriot.
“He loved his country,” Koch’s mother, Christine, said yesterday, a day after the military announced her son’s death in Afghanistan. “He said he would bleed on the American flag to keep the stripes red.”
To Koch, a 23-year-old Corporal in the 82nd Airborne Division, it wasn’t just talk, his family said. A page he kept on MySpace carried the Airborne Creed — a paean to pride and honor — along with quotations from Winston Churchill and a pledge to fight terrorism no matter the cost. Christine Koch, worried about her son’s safety, said she tried for years to keep him from enlisting. Early in 2006, Steven Koch decided he would no longer be stopped. He deployed to Afghanistan in January of last year and was due home April 20, when he would be reunited with his wife, Amy, and the their 15-month-old daughter, Zoe.
“He was so determined to be the best,” Amy Koch said yesterday in the couple’s Spotswood apartment. “When he got to the top of something, he wanted to move on. He was going to try for Special Forces. I admired his determination.” As she spoke, blond-haired Zoe scampered from room to room, a mirror-image, Amy Koch said, of her father.
“She’s all him,” the wife said. “She’s a go-getter. She’ll go after something and try and try and try.”
Despite the difficult conditions in Afghanistan, Koch loved soldiering and remained committed to the mission, his family said. A photo of Koch in uniform, standing before an American flag, takes a place of honor on the mantel of his parents’ East Brunswick home.
“This was his destiny,” Christine Koch said. Amy Koch said she’d been looking forward to her husband’s return home next month. Pointing to her daughter, Amy Koch said, “Be sure to say that she’s going to know how proud we are of her dad, how he was a hero.”
Steven’s portrait is also located on Poster 7 and Poster 12