Gary Lee Gooch, Jr.
Specialist, United States Army
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 877-09
DOD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
They died November 5, 2009, in Jelewar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington.
Specialist Aaron S. Aamot, 22, of Custer, Washington
Specialist Gary L. Gooch Jr., 22, of Ocala, Florida
For more information media may contact the
Fort Lewis public affairs office at 253-967-0147 or 967-0152.
Keely Murphy, Gooch's older sister, also served in the Army and did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before leaving the service four months ago.
"We grew up with mom playing all these World War II videos," Murphy said. "We both wanted to serve our country. We both knew that would be the only way to make something of ourselves because mom did the best she could, but we just didn't have the money for college."
Gooch went to Fort Benning, Georgia, on August 29, 2006, for infantry training. On January 9, 2007, he reported to Fort Lewis in Washington State, where he was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division as a grenadier. The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in July 2009. It was his first deployment.
It also was the first deployment for Specialist Aaron S. Aamot of Custer, Washington. Aamot enlisted July 2006 and was sent to Fort Benning for infantry training. And, like Gooch, he reported to Fort Lewis, where he was assigned as a Stryker vehicle driver in the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
On Monday, the Department of Defense announced the death of the two soldiers, both 22 years old, in Jelewar, Afghanistan.
Aamot and Gooch, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, died of wounds they suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
Gooch's service will be private, Murphy said.
Gooch was scheduled to come home on leave in time for Thanksgiving.
"He was supposed to come home in a week, on the 24th," Murphy said Tuesday. "He told Mom he wanted to go snowboarding and horseback riding."
Murphy said he planned to visit his mother, Jeanine Murphy, and then go to Connecticut and Vermont to see family.
"For some reason, he just loves the cold," Murphy said.
That may seem unusual for a man who spent the first 15 years of his life in South Florida. Gooch lived in Margate before moving to the Dunnellon area at age 15.
His cousin, Megan Crowley, still lives in Broward County. Off and on from the time he was 2 years old until he was 15, Gooch and his family lived with Crowley's family.
"We grew up in the same house," Crowley said. "He loved his family and spent a lot of time with them. He and his mom were very, very close."
Crowley, 32, remembers how she and her girlfriends would take Gooch everywhere with them. She also remembers how he would baby-sit children in the neighborhood.
"He was just an amazing guy," Crowley said. "He was very loving."
Crowley said Gooch used to collect small John Deere tractors.
"He used to sing that song, 'She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy'," Crowley said with a laugh, referring to the tune by country singer Kenny Chesney.
"He lived life to the fullest," she said. "He did love living in Ocala. There was always stuff to do."
Lynn Bazinet, who lives at Meadow Wood Farms, raised her nephew Richard Lind. He and Gooch were good friends.
"If Gary was not sleeping at my house, then Richard was sleeping at Gary's," Bazinet said. "Both families have just been close."
Bazinet said Gooch was charming, easy-going and always saw the positive side of bad situations.
"He liked reading. He liked video games. He had a library of movies. He and Richard would watch movie after movie after movie, then sleep until 2 p.m.," Bazinet said.
And after the marathon movie nights, Gooch and Lind would wake up and eat pizza rolls.
"He said it was the world's most perfect food," Bazinet said.
She also remembers how Gooch liked to ride horses and how special he was to her.
"You come across people every day in your life. There's a small handful that really stand out from the rest. Gary is in that small percent that stands out from all the rest of the people you meet," Bazinet said. "I am devastated that this had to happen."
Justeen Allen, of Fort Lewis, Wash., and her husband met Gooch when he was stationed at Fort Lewis. Her husband still is in Afghanistan.
"My husband, Ricky Allen, was deployed with him," Allen said. "They were in the same squad."
Gooch was the best man at the Allens' wedding. She said her husband considered Gooch his best friend.
"There's been a lot of action over there," Allen said. "My husband has lost a lot of friends."
Allen remembers how they would all go to the movies together and how Gooch would spend much of his paycheck on DVDs.
She said he was always friendly to strangers.
"He was always looking for the joy in life," Allen said. "He just was a really nice guy. It's rare to come across that now-a-days. He was a really sweet guy."
Allen said she had met Aamot at military functions, but did not know him personally.
The 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and its roughly 4,000 soldiers is the first of the medium-weight, highly mobile infantry brigades to go to Afghanistan. Two other Stryker brigades from Fort Lewis currently are serving in Iraq.
Both Gooch and Aamot received awards and decorations including the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
Aamot also received the Expert Infantryman
Early on the morning of November 6, 2009, Gary L. Gooch Sr. was awakened at his Lexington home by two Army officers who brought the worst news a father can hear.
The officers -- a chaplain and a casualty-assistance officer -- told Gooch that his son, Specialist Gary L. Gooch Jr., 22, of Ocala, Florida., died November 5, 2009, in Jelewar, Afghanistan, of the wounds he suffered when enemy forces attacked the vehicle he was in with an improvised explosive device.
Another soldier, Specialist Aaron S. Aamot, 22, of Custer, Washington, was killed and two others were wounded in the attack.
"I'm proud of him (Gary)," Gooch Sr. said yesterday. "I know it is ugly over there, but we have to serve our country."
As of Saturday, at least 839 members of the American military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Gooch was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, according to an Army news release. The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in July.
Gooch joined the Army after he graduated in 2006 from Dunnellon High School in Dunnellon, Florida. He trained at Fort Benning, Ga., as an infantryman. He was assigned to the combat team at Fort Lewis, Wash., in January 2007. He served as a grenadier in his unit. It was his first deployment.
Gooch's awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
Gooch Sr., a truck driver, said he last talked to his son when he was in middle school. Gooch Sr. and his first wife, Jeanine Murphy, have been divorced for several years.
Gooch Jr.'s sister, Keely Murphy, also served in the Army and completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gooch Sr. said that Murphy talked to her father about her decision to volunteer, but her brother "just up and done it."
His sister's decision to join the Army probably influenced Gooch Jr. to do the same, said Linda Gooch, his aunt and his father's sister-in-law. Murphy has since left the Army.
Linda Gooch said she was horrified when she heard the news of her nephew's death.
"We're really very, very sorry that he's been killed," she said. "He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He was only 22, and we won't get the opportunity to know him. That's makes me very sad."
Gooch will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors, but a funeral date has not been scheduled.
His father said that his son's military service was worthwhile.
"I just hope we go there and get rid of those terrorists," Gooch said. "Let's be done with it. (President) Obama should send more troops there, and we should get it done. This isn't the Vietnam War."
Soldier leaves a legacy of blessings
Decorated specialist enlisted in Army after finishing high school
By Yamiche Alcindor
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Friday, December 11, 2009
Dozens of family members and friends gathered at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday to say goodbye to Specialist Gary L. Gooch Jr.
The Army offered an opportunity "to advance," his cousin Courtney Crowley, 24, told the Orlando Sentinel. "He liked structure, and it gave him a place to be so he could take care of his mom when he was older. He just wanted to get ahead in life."
Gooch, 22, graduated from Dunnellon High School, near Ocala, Florida, in 2006 and enlisted shortly afterward, the paper said.
Gooch and Specialist Aaron S. Aamot, 22, died November 5,2009, in Jelewar, Afghanistan, when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Both were based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and served with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
A caisson pulled by white horses carried Gooch's flag-draped platinum coffin to the cemetery's Section 60, where most veterans of the war are buried.
The sun, hidden for most of the service behind clouds, cast a shadow over those gathered on the muddy grass. Soldiers fired three rifle volleys, and the U.S. Army Band played patriotic songs.
"I'm proud of him," the soldier's father, Gary L. Gooch Sr., told the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal. "I know it is ugly over there, but we have to serve our country."
Gooch received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, an Army Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal and several other military awards. In addition to his father, he is survived by his mother, Jeanine M. Murphy, and sister, Keely Murphy. All three received folded flags and condolences from Lt. Gen. David. H. Huntoon Jr.
Moments before the service ended, a white and red floral arrangement was placed on Gooch's coffin, and family members bid farewell.
"He is one of those truly amazing persons that you just feel blessed that they touched your life," Crowley told the Sentinel. "He was quick to smile and slow to anger. He was always willing to do anything you asked of him and never failed to make time for his family."
GOOCH, GARY LEE
Posted: 10 December 2009 Updated: 3 February 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, February 2010