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Casualties of War by William Koch Jr.

Casualties of War

by William Koch Jr.

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Review Written By Bernie Weisz, Historian, Pembroke Pines, Fl, USA Contact, BernWei1@aol.com Sept. 27, 2011 Title of Review: " Their Spiritual Presence Is Eternal: Two Immortal Souls From A Bereaved Family Refuse To Abandon Their Loved Ones!"
"Casualties of War" is a new 2011 release, by a first time writer, Mr. William Koch, Jr. Those two facts are the only items about this book that are new. The unfortunate consequences presented in Koch's book are a result of a national catastrophe that occurred a decade ago. However, the painful and heart wrenching essences of this book are the feelings and issues the remaining survivors of a nuclear family are forced to confront, deal with and overcome if they are to survive. These are repercussions of man's inhumanity to his fellow man that are ancient, found even in surviving cave man hieroglyphics. This is not an easy book to read, especially if you are not used to the subtle intrinsic meanings that are built into poetry, which at times are ambiguous to interpretation. Perhaps it was the only way a suffering father could describe the unrelenting sorrow he is continually dealing with. I have read stories of Nazi Concentration Camp victims, prisoners of war that have survived the Japanese "Hell Ships," Americans languishing in the "Hanoi Hilton" and even unfortunate souls that endured an indescribable hell of internment in a sub zero Siberian gulag. While this is not a contest of who had the worse torment of the aforementioned lot, certainly this is a story that affects every American, as well as every husband and father. For I cannot think of any greater despair more severe then when a father and mother outlives their son and daughter, respectively. Despite Koch's brevity of 205 pages, most of which are lyrical twenty line poetic compositions, the subjective feeling of tormenting heartbreak and mid boggling agony of inconsolable bereavement are a disquieting theme present from cover to cover. It is hard to imagine anyone remaining stoical while reading "Casualties of War."

William Koch's story will most significantly affect those readers that have already experienced the debilitating effects of death's familial dismantling. It will also equally evoke powerful feelings of concerned apprehension for those with a family member in the Armed Forces that is susceptible to or currently deployed in the omnipresent battlegrounds of Afghanistan. Barely a citizen of this country emerged psychically unscathed from the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Those most sensitive to this traumatic recollection will also feel the hypnotic effect of William Koch's prose. All of the aforementioned groups will invariably be mesmerized in their struggle to interpret the authors poetical lines into their own level of comprehension. September 11th is a day that many argue even outranks the trauma our nation endured on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt deemed "A Day of Infamy." National shock, indignation and rancor arose as a consequence of Japan's carefully-planned and well-executed December 7th, 1941 early morning "sneak attack" on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. After just two hours of bombing, more than 2,400 Americans were dead, 21 ships had either been sunk or damaged, and more than 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed. The attack at Pearl Harbor so outraged Americans that the U.S. abandoned its policy of isolationism and declared war on Japan the following day, officially bringing the United States into World War II. Ironically, it was particularly the citizenry of America that was stunned, as F.D.R. and his cronies knew this attack was only a matter of time in coming. The Second World War would drag on until 1945, where in Western Europe the end of hostilities would be heralded with Adolf Hitler's suicide on April 30, followed by the entire German military capitulation on May 7th.

Despite the Nazi perpetration of "The Holocaust," America's acrimony was more vengefully focused on "The Rising Sun." Two big bangs would end this conflict, manifested by history's only usage of two nuclear weapons called upon in the course of warfare. On August 6th, 1945, the U.S. dropped a uranium bomb code named "Little Boy" on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9th, a plutonium implosion-type bomb code-named "Fat Man" was exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. These two bombings resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 Japanese people, mostly civilians that would perish as a result of acute injuries sustained from the explosions. On the surface, the facts appear as if the foreign attack on Pearl Harbor was more significant then the ones in the 911 incidents. If you look strictly at the casualties, this assumption is correct. There was a total number of 2,977 Americans combined that perished on the four September 11, 2001 attacks. In the resulting "War on Terror", which includes operations in Afghanistan, the start date is officially recorded as October 7th, 2001. This demarcation of America's foray into Afghanistan and elsewhere in that region of the world that harbors, sponsors and gives sanctuary to terrorists and their organizations has the dubious distinction of being the longest war in American history, even eclipsing U.S. involvement in Vietnam. It is currently ongoing, resulting in a total of 5,921 Americans to date killed. At Pearl Harbor, American mortality figures were 2,402 dead. However, that was a small part of the overall U.S. casualties in both theatres of W.W. II, which at war's end would total 416,800 military deaths. Coinciding with William Koch's title, it is interesting to note that The Civil War of 1961-1865 still resulted in the highest number of American casualty totals of any conflict this country has ever engaged in.

Just as a side note, other "casualty of war" ironies involve the way some past wars were viewed. For example, W. W. II resulted in more American deaths than the 116,708 that perished in W.W. I, despite President Woodrow Wilson calling the latter the "War to End All Wars". Sadly, the Korean War was designated the misnomer "The Forgotten War" despite 36,516 combat deaths. In the Second Indo-China War, more commonly known as the Vietnam War, 58,220 of our nation's finest went to their final resting place. Sadly, many Americans upon their return turned their backs on these brave men willing to risk being a "Casualty of War." In its first 100 years of existence, over 683,000 Americans lost their lives, with the Civil War accounting for 623,026 of that total, a staggering 91.2% of America's "Casualties of War." Just to illustrate how costly the War Between the States truly was, in the 100 years after the Civil War, i.e. 1865 to 1965, another 626,000 Americans were killed, with W.W. II representing 65% of that total. While these figures are enlightening, and do fit in with the author's title, they are also extremely deceptive. As evidence, the September 11th attacks resulted in an unprecedented terrorization of every single member of the U.S., from Air Force One shuttling President Bush to an underground command center in Nebraska to the mania surrounding the anthrax scare. No other war has done this, regardless of the casualties. There are other differences between the two "surprise attacks." Although the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor came as a profound shock to all American citizens, few people know that Japanese motives were actually defensive in nature.

Historical evidence dictates that the Japanese attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with their upcoming military actions planned in Southeast Asia. Japanese imperialistic action against the overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States was the Nippon objective. Called "The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," the Japanese desired to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese Empire and free of Western powers. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had already had incorporated Manchuria and French Indochina. Aware of this, F.D.R. forbid the exportation of U.S. oil to Japan, a nation entirely dependent on outside sources. Without this commodity, Japan targeted military seizure of the oil rich Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, Singapore, et. al. Their plan of ensuring noninterference by U.S. Naval assets by eliminating them worked. While Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they simultaneously invaded the aforementioned areas successfully, with virtually little American opposition. Another difference between 911 and Pearl Harbor was that in Hawaii, only the U.S. Naval base was attacked, and the majority of Americans killed that day were Naval personnel. In contrast, the September 11, 2001 attackers did not return like the Japanese did in 1941 to offshore awaiting aircraft carriers, These were one way suicide attacks, consisting of a series of four different coordinated strikes upon the U.S. in both New York City and Washington, D.C., area.

On that Tuesday morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four different passenger jets, intentionally crashing three planes. The flight crews of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were both overpowered, and the planes were flown as commercial missiles with horrified, strong armed passengers aboard into both of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both towers collapsed within two hours. A third plane was also pirated, with hijackers cowardly crashing American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth and final jet, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers attempted to take control before it could reach the hijacker's intended target in Washington, D.C. With deeper scrutiny, the differences between the sneak attacks of 1941 and 2001 continue to grow. America knew that at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacking armada was composed of a task force of six aircraft carriers commanded by Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. In the September 11th Attacks, the attackers were quickly identified, but who they were sent by could only be strongly suspected. Highest on the list was a global Sunni Islamic militant group that was founded by Osama bin Laden in approximately 1988. This was confirmed in 2004, when bin Laden, who had initially denied involvement, claimed responsibility. In the Sept. 11th attacks, defense experts postulated that Bin Laden's motives were one of, or a combination of several different causes. Most popular was America's support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as a consequence of the Gulf War. Why all the history? Simple, this is the very reason for this story in the first place. The primary consequences of warfare have an inevitable and tragic result: human loss of life.

There is not much written of the author's early life, and for the purposes of this story, it is not really needed. The Koch Family, before all this madness occurred, was initially a happy, hearty family of five. The patriarch was and still is William Koch, a quiet, unassuming man from East Brunswick, New Jersey. He is a professional electrician. He fell in love with and married Christine, a registered nurse. Like most young couples, they went about building a family. Their first child was a girl, born on January 21, 1981 who was named Lynne. The Koch's would have two more, Steven, born three years later on October 25, 1984, and finally to round out the trio, William. The author only details the most basic information about Steven, such as the fact that he was highly sociable, interacting strongly with his siblings, schoolmates and friends. In addition, he was exceptionally athletic, involved in all forms of organized sports such as little league baseball as well as basketball. This was balanced by an even higher sense of allegiance he held to his family, rooting for his sister Lynne in her cheerleading endeavors as well as skateboarding with Bill, the youngest. William Koch points out that Steven went to Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Milltown, New Jersey and East Brunswick high school. At the center of this trio was Lynne, the oldest, who felt an obligation to keep a watchful eye out for her two younger brothers. The author in pointing out her nickname of "little mommy" shows the inseparable, overly protective bond Lynne felt for her brothers, which would be unbearable to her when it could only present for one brother. If you read the authors poetry real carefully, you will see that he explains that his daughter was always in the center of her two brothers, constantly sharing her kindness. Lynne was able to split in half her affection and overly protective bond right down the middle. A perfect analogy of this relationship is a stereo system. Lynne was like the component to it, and Steven and Bill were speaker A and B, giving the Koch siblings a stereo relationship, all in tune with each other. If you permanently take away one speaker from that setup, the system will never sound right again. Events were about to conspire to do just that.

On that fateful Tuesday morning of September 11th, the youngest of the three siblings, William, was working across the street from the World Trade Center at the time of the catastrophe. Although William was unhurt, the overprotective instincts of "little mommy" was seized upon by Steven. To put his younger brother in such grave danger was an unpardonable affront, and when reflecting on what happened, he became both indignant and vengeful. Steven realized that the hijackers of American Flight 11 and United Flight 175 had no respect for their own lives, the passengers lives that were on those planes or the people working in the Twin Towers. Mohammad Atta, the main hijacker and his cohorts had gone too far. What they did was so contemptible that Steven felt obligated to contribute in insuring that this transgression would not go unpunished. William Koch does not mention what the final straw was that motivated his son to join the army. Surely Steven must have processed the anthrax attacks which occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters that contained anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. Terrorist events kept occurring, like the arrest of Richard Reid in December of 2001. Reid, a follower of Osama bin Laden, hid explosives inside his shoes before boarding a flight from Paris to Miami and attempted to light the fuse with a match. If detonated, the explosives would have damaged the plane. The next year saw Jose Padilla arrested at O'Hare Airport in Chicago as he returned to the United States from Pakistan. He was initially charging as an enemy combatant and for planning to use a "dirty bomb" in an attack against America and later sentenced to 17 years in jail.

In June of 2006, seven men were arrested in Miami and Atlanta for plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and only one month later, the FBI discovered a plot to attack underground transit links between New York City and New Jersey. The American way of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was being challenged. William Koch mentions that in Steven's drive to protect our country and others who could not protect themselves, he joined the U.S. Army. Making a statement as to what was important in life, Steven signed on the dotted line of the U.S. Army recruiter, and joined Uncle Sam's bandwagon on stamping out terrorism and its adherents wherever it raised it's ugly head. With his competitive instincts unleashed, Steve did his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia and easily flew through airborne school in Louisiana, qualifying himself in the use of parachuting as a means of combat deployment. In developing leadership, self-confidence, and an aggressive spirit through mental and physical conditioning, the proud author wrote that his warrior son was awarded the "Excellence Medal" outperforming everybody. There are very clear photos to show this period in Steven's life. The anxiety that rifled the entire family upon the January, 2007 deployment of Steven to Afghanistan is palpable to the reader. William adds that as a member of the 82 Airborne 508th Infantry, Steven "lived and worked hard to keep others out of harm's way. The tension is cranked up another level when William mentions that Steven's missions were covert and classified, on a "need to know" basis only. In recalling those last few calls home, his son's messages would be succinct and laconic. In reminiscing, the author laments:" How I wish he would call right now and tell us how we are making too much of what he did." Like past baseball stars Kirk Gibson with two ailing knees blasting a home run and grimacing, barely able to circle the bases, or Curt Schilling's World Series pitching masterpiece, mowing down hitters with an ailing ankle, Steven soldiered through pain, never complaining.

"Casualties of War" is not a combat book. There is no description of Steven's reaction to seeing dead bodies, being shot at or of shooting, being attacked or ambushed, or even Steven's reactions to knowing someone was killed or seriously wounded. These are all events he undoubtedly experienced. Afghanistan is a land-locked Asian country of 251,825 square miles that is bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. The topography is a mix of central highlands and peripheral foothills and plains. Except for a few minorities, all inhabitants are Muslim. The Taliban control most of the country. Their government is recognized only by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban rule without a constitution, relying on the Koran. Steven Koch was facing an elusive enemy that fought strictly guerrilla style; on their terms with the use of booby traps and ambushes. It is not an army in the sense of past wars, like German Panzer Divisions or English Commandos. In a sense a comparison could be made to the fighting Americans faced in South Vietnam's jungles, mountains and rice paddies. There, the Viet Cong was an elusive opponent that blended in with the population using booby traps, underground tunnels and stealth. They were well trained from fighting the French before the U.S. arrived en masse. Similarly, The Soviet Union tried out their military might, deploying their forces in December of 1979 under Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev in a nine year war they were destined to lose 14, 453 of their own troops. Their leader in 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev, would bring the troops home in February of 1989 without accomplishing anything except causing between 200,000 to a million Afghani "Casualties of War." Although this was a proxy war of the super powers, Steven's opponents sharpened their lethal guerrilla style method of combat. In this instance, the Soviet Union was there to support the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The ironic part is that the U.S. supported both economically and militarily the "Afghan Mujahideen" and foreign "Arab-Afghan" volunteers, who would later become their opponents.

Before the war with the Soviets, Afghanistan was already one of the world's poorest nations. The prolonged conflict left Afghanistan as one of the least developed countries in the world. One chief factor of anti-American sentiment that is cited is that once the Soviets withdrew, US interest in Afghanistan ceased completely. Deciding to go back to a policy of isolationism, leaders in Washington decided not to help with reconstruction of this country and instead handed over Afghani interests to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, American allies. A bizarre combination of individual Warlords and the Taliban seized power, and a decimated economy took to opium agriculture as a primary means of income. Jumping ahead to September 11, 2001, it was the caves of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden sought and found refuge, and the stomping grounds Al-queda had its training camps in. Refusing to hand over public enemy number one or oust Al Queda from it's borders, the Taliban was toeing a perilous line with Washington. Before the U.S. attacked, it offered Taliban leader Mullah Omar a chance to surrender bin Laden and his top associates. As a stalling tactic, The Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country for trial if the U.S. would provide evidence of bin Laden's complicity in the attacks. President had enough, responding: "We know he's guilty. Turn him over!" Soon thereafter the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and the Taliban government, although deposed, fought a war of subterfuge and booby traps using a cowardly tactic of "improvised explosive devices," known as the infamous acronym "IED." These are homemade bombs. These bombs are not constructed and used like regular bombs such as an artillery shell or what a fighter bomber aircraft would drop on a target, although it could be constructed from the parts of one with simply a detonating mechanism attached to it.

This insidious usage of IED's is the weapon of choice the "Insurgents" use to combat American and Coalition forces, and these have caused over 66% of the coalition casualties from the 2001 to the present Afghanistan War. These "Insurgents," a ragtag collection of Taliban, al-Qaeda and Haqqani militia, use these IED's, which can be anything from a car or truck bomb to begin an attack. Following this, their typical campaign commences, using direct-fire weapons such as machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to continue the attack. Currently the fighting is primarily concentrated in Southern Afghanistan. The scene was set, as Stephen Koch was less than two months from coming home to his family. He had taken a wife, Amy, and had a three month old daughter, Zoe, eagerly anticipating his homecoming. Koch, aside from being in communications, rode as a Humvee gunner, meaning he had all the firepower directly in his hands, from a TOE missile to an M2 heavy machine gun as well as a grenade launcher. A HUMVEE is a military four door "High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle" which has become the vehicular backbone of U.S. forces around the world. Unfortunately, "little mommy" back in East Brunswick could not protect him on March 3rd, 2008 when his unit entered the northern part of Khost Province, Afghanistan, known as the "Sabari District." Although William Koch was sparse on the details, a building Steven was in collapsed after a truck containing an IED exploded. He was killed along with another soldier, Sgt. Robert Rapp. Although younger Koch and Rapp were the only fatalities, the entire platoon suffered wounds in this incident. You would think everyone had suffered enough, and would try as best they could to put one foot in front of each other and carry on the best way they could. However, the stereo was not working right without one of it's speakers, and it never would work right again. On May 6th, 2010, "Little Mommy" who dad explained "kept the boys so safe and cool" reached for "peace of mind." William Koch, interpreting Lynne's motives, speaks for the rest of his family in finishing the last part of that sentence: "In a way that the three of us understand completely, as will others that have been there. There are times that it gets to be too much to take, and now with Lynne also a casualty of wartime, it becomes even more important to look for Jesus to carry us through the pain. The words and guidance of Christ are what get us through. This spiritual connection with our Lord has helped me to internally deal with the questions of life and now death." Amen, William Koch!

I am sorry if I have been too technical or have included too much historical background. You see, not that it is an excuse, but the author is 100% correct, I have been there. Although not exactly like William, Christine and Billy, but then again everybody's experience is different. I only wish I had a fraction of the strength and empowerment that William Koch displayed in writing such a bold, courageous and vital book. You, the reader, will find every answer that my review has brought up in reading William Koch's empowering verses. He discusses in depth raising the children, his feelings of loneliness upon losing Steven, which magnified infinitesimally upon Lynne's passing. The author writes: "My answer to some people asking how we can go on-Life minus a brother, sister, daughter, and a son-Daily routine is hard to function to make thoughts go away-Missed love in our hearts can't save us from the brutal day. " There is incredulously a sense of humor intermixed with drenching, soul searching despair in the ruckus Steven and Lynne are creating in the "Pearly Gates." William writes: God got his hands full with this pair-Bill, Mom and I are left with a tear-Days go by slow like that of a year-Hours of pain with too much wear-Her spirit still flows, my daughter dear-Our love for her will never disappear." William Koch's "Casualties of War" is a book that shows courage, perseverance of the strongest kind, love, faith and incredible coping skills in a situations trying to the highest degree. As I have already stated from the beginning, this is the hardest, yet simplest book I have ever read or reviewed in my life. It is also one book out of thousands I will never, ever forget, so powerful was this author's words. Even more important was his deeds, of continuing today his role of being a loving and devoted husband to Christine, a supportive father for Bill, a solid father in law for his daughter in law, Amy, and a proud grandfather for the up and coming Zoe. This book's title is about casualties. However it is actually about survivors, life, sticking together regardless of outside circumstances, and what made it possible to do this. Incredibly, William Koch unwittingly left readers with an invaluable survivor's guide in defiance of insurmountable odds. Do you want to learn these lessons? Read "Casualties of War" and don't forget the box of tissues!
  BERNIE2260 | Sep 27, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 161777555X, Perfect Paperback)

Perhaps you have a loved one fighting for America's freedom. Perhaps you have lost a loved one to that war. Perhaps you are simply an avid supporter of the troops. Or perhaps you haven't paid that much attention to the troops or their families left behind. No matter who you are, the words in Casualties of War will speak to your heart. William Koch Jr. lost two precious children to the war. His poems pay tribute to these souls and reveal to all the pain experienced by the families left to cope. William's words also bring into the light the fight for America and will inspire readers to stand up in support of their country and the men and women battling for them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:26:18 -0400)

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