U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 237-11
March 24, 2011
DOD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died March 22, 2011, in Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.
- Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire, 28, of Chillicothe, Ohio.
- Private First Class Michael C. Mahr, 26, of Homosassa, Florida
- They were assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, Bamberg, Germany.
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Army Staff Sergeant Josh Gire, a third-generation soldier and graduate of Huntington High School, was killed March 22 in Afghanistan.
The circumstances surrounding Gire’s death remained unclear the day after his death.
Gire, 28, graduated from Huntington in 2000 and enlisted in the Army in 2001, before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Uhrig said. This was his second deployment to Afghanistan. He also previously served in Iraq and Kosovo.
“He was one that I never doubted was doing his job and doing it correctly, so I always envisioned him coming home more than anyone else,” Gire’s cousin, Jason Uhrig, said.
Dan Riddle, guidance counselor at Huntington High School, said Gire was “a great role model for some of our younger kids.”
“I would take 100 more students exactly like Josh,” Riddle said.
Gire recently had been promoted to staff sergeant. He was based in Germany, where he lived with his wife, Jackie; their 5-year-old son, Nicholas; and their daughter Riley, who turns 3 Friday.
Kellie Uhrig said Gire also is survived by an older brother, Paul Gire Jr., and two half-brothers, Mike Donahue and Jon Hunt; two stepsisters, Beth Hunt and Sandy Bourne; and his stepfather, Dale Hunt.
“He loved his wife, he loved his family and he was very proud of what he was doing,” Uhrig said.
Gire followed his grandfather, a World War II veteran, and father, a Vietnam veteran, into the Army.
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Yellow ribbons adorned trees and road signs along Ohio Route 772, leading a path to Huntington High School where Staff Sergeant Joshua Gire was honored and remembered as an all-around great man.
At the school, members of the Patriot Guard lined the entry outside the gym where posters hung, made by current students expressing their gratitude.
The Army had soldiers who switched off guarding Gire’s casket during the viewing.
“Across our nation, not only in this area, around the world, Josh did not do what he did in vain. … Everyone wants to say ‘Thank you, Josh. Thank you for what you did,’ “ Pastor Dan Lamb said.
At least 400 attended the memorial service while more than 100 others traveled through during viewing hours in the gym of the school from which Gire graduated in 2000. Several of Gire’s childhood friends gathered for the service, looking to each other for support and offering condolences to his family.
Cassie Cahill, 29, said she first heard about her friend’s March 23 combat death in Afghanistan through Facebook.
“I thought it was a horrible rumor. It had to be a mistake. … I hated to find it out on the Internet … but now it’s a comfort seeing that everyone feels the same way,” she said.
The reality of Gire’s death sank in April 9 as Cahill and other friends watched the processional bringing him home, she said.
Several area veterans groups also attended the service April 12, offering their fallen comrade a farewell salute. The Patriot Guard and the Veterans of Foreign Wars also gave Gire’s family gifts.
During the service, family shared memories, mostly through letters read by others.
“If you knew him, you loved him. If you didn’t know him, you missed out on an amazing man,” said his sister, Sandra Hunt Bourne.
In a letter from Gire’s wife, Jackie, she wrote about how he always would help his friends, sometimes “a little too much” in her opinion. In the end, he always did as much for his family as possible, making sure their needs were met. He left the discipline of their two small children mostly up to her because, he reasoned, he was often away and did not want them to be at odds with him.
He’d say, “Home is where my wife and kids are, and that’s all that matters.”
“He always thought I was strong, so I will try,” Jackie’s note concluded.
His brother, P.J. Gire, shared through a letter that Gire always was the best at anything he did and they always could talk about everything.
Another brother, Michael Donahue, made a pledge in his letter: “I will teach my kids and your kids what a great man you were.”
Gire’s great uncle, Bill Babb, also spoke proudly of him and others in the family who have served. Babb said we all should be grateful to God and the men and women willing to sacrifice for our freedoms.
“Freedom is never free. It is always purchased with a great cost,” he said.
A poem Gire wrote while in basic training showed how he was unsure of his decision to enlist at first and was a little scared. Other lines of the poem spoke of how he felt “pride when the day finally ends” and that “nothing helps more than to be here for my dad,” who was a Vietnam War veteran.
Ultimately, Gire felt at home with the Army, and he re-enlisted after a break from his initial stint — he originally had signed on in 2001. He even had aspirations of becoming a drill sergeant.
Army Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas said while he didn’t personally know Gire, he could tell by reviewing his service file what a great man he was.
“I was astounded by how quickly he rose in the ranks,” he said, later telling everyone they are a part of Gire’s legacy.
The Army presented the family with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for Gire. The service wrapped with honors by the Army at the entrance to the school. The flag that draped his casket was ceremoniously folded into a tri-fold shape and presented to Jackie. She cradled it and wiped at her tears while the bagpipes played and Gire’s casket was carried back to the hearse.
Staff Sergeant Joshua Gire received a hero's burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, the hallowed resting ground for the men and women who fight and die for their country.
In the days leading up to his burial, the 28-year-old Huntington High School graduate had been honored and mourned by hundreds of family members, friends, classmates and strangers in Chillicothe.
On Friday, he was buried with full military honors and mourned by the nation's top military leaders.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived at the gravesite a few minutes before the funeral procession made its way to the plot. After the brief ceremony, he and Army Secretary John McHugh took turns kneeling before Gire's wife and young children to offer their condolences.
Under an intense sun and blue skies spotted with an occasional cloud, six white horses pulled a caisson bearing Gire's casket. A military band and escort platoon marched behind. About 50 family members and friends followed on foot, walking in silence as a drummer kept cadence.
The military band, standing among the iconic white headstones that dot Arlington National Cemetery, played hymns as eight soldiers carried Gire's flag-draped casket to the gravesite. The soldiers stood at attention, holding the U.S. flag over Gire's casket.
Gire died March 22, 2011, from wounds suffered when his unit in the Logar province of Afghanistan was attacked with an improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.
Gire's unit — the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade — was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was Gire's second tour in Afghanistan. He also had done tours in Iraq and Kosovo.
Gire graduated from Huntington in 2000 and enlisted in the Army in 2001, before the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks. He re-enlisted after his initial stint ended and dreamed of one day becoming a Drill Sergeant.
In a poem Gire wrote during basic training that was read at a memorial conducted at his high school Tuesday, Gire said he felt “pride when the day finally ends.”
On Friday, his wife, Jacqueline, and two young children sat in front of his coffin. His 3-year-old daughter, Riley, squirmed in a relative's arms. His 5-year-old son, Nicholas, sat quietly next to his mother.
A chaplain said the Lord's Prayer, and a seven-member firing party aimed their rifles in the air for three shots. The echo of the shots rang out as a lone bugler played taps.
The eight soldiers holding the flag over Gire's casket slowly, and with precision, folded the flag as the military band played “America the Beautiful.” When the last notes had drifted off in the crisp spring day, Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas presented the flag to Gire's wife.
Flags also were presented to Gire's son; daughter; mother, Peggy E. Hunt; and father, Paul W. Gire, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Gire was awarded the Bronze Star, a decoration given to soldiers for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service, and the Purple Heart, given to those who have been wounded or killed while serving their country.
The flag draped casket of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire is carried on a caisson during
burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011
The flag draped casket of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire is carried during burial services
at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011.
The flag draped casket of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire is placed at the grave side by a casket team
during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, looks on as the American Flag from the casket of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire, is folded during burial
services at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011. Seated at left is Jacqueline R. Gire, the widow of Staff Setgeant Joshua S. Gire
Brigadier General Richard W. Thomas presents Jacqueline R. Gire, the widow of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire, a flag during burial services
at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011. Left of Jacqueline is her daughter Riley J. Gire.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates comforts Jacqueline R. Gire, the widow of Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire, during burial services at Arlington
National Cemetery Friday, April 15, 2011. Left of Jacqueline are her children Nicholas J. Gire and Riley J. Gire
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, center, comforts Jacqueline R. Gire, the widow of Army Staff Sergeant Joshua S. Gire, Friday during burial services
at Arlington National Cemetery Joshua Gire, 28 of Chillicothe, died March 22 in Afghanistan
- GIRE, JOSHUA S
- SSGT US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 09/22/1982
- DATE OF DEATH: 03/22/2011
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 9694
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard