"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." James Madison

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Navy SEALs Killed in Iraq

Virginian-Pilot | By Louis Hansen and Jim Washington | February 06, 2008

Two SEALs, both decorated chief petty officers with deep military ties, were killed during combat Monday in Iraq.

Nathan Hardy and Michael E. Koch, both 29, were slain by small- arms fire during anti-insurgent operations, the Navy announced Tuesday.

Hardy, originally from Durham, N.H., is the grandson of two World War II veterans, according to his father, Steve Hardy. One grandfather served aboard PT-109 with John F. Kennedy, the young officer who would become president.

Koch, whose family is in State College, Pa., has a brother serving in Iraq, and both of his parents have worked as contractors in the Middle East.

Sixteen locally based SEALs have been killed during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, according to data compiled by The Virginian-Pilot.

Nathan Hardy wanted to be a SEAL since he was in sixth grade, his father said Tuesday night in an interview at Hardy's Virginia Beach home. He heard stories about his grandfather being rescued by Kennedy from the sinking patrol boat and set his sights on a Navy career.

"Nate was very proud of his Navy heritage," Hardy said.

He was also a talented, aggressive soccer and lacrosse player at Oyster River High School, his father recalled.

"He probably got too many fouls," Hardy said, and smiled. "As a midfielder, he was a good Navy SEAL."

Hardy enlisted after high school, in November 1997 and, after boot camp, completed SEAL basic training in Coronado, Calif. He served his entire special warfare career on the East Coast. Hardy was awarded the Bronze Star and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He was making his fourth deployment to Iraq.

The small high school attended by the three Hardy sons held a moment of silence on Tuesday, said principal Laura Rogers. Even though he graduated 10 years ago, she said, "people remember him. They are feeling the loss."

Hardy was the youngest of three boys. The oldest, Josh, died of cancer when Nathan was in eighth grade. But Steve Hardy said he did not worry about his son's dangerous job.

"We had lost one son. Our philosophy has been you live life to the fullest," he said.

Hardy is survived by his wife, Mindy, and a 7-month-old son, Parker.

Koch leaves behind his parents, a brother, a sister, and a fiancee.

He also spent his entire special warfare career on the East Coast. He enlisted in July 1998 and entered SEAL training in January 1999. During his career, he received the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

Dee Brown, Koch's aunt who lives in Williamsport, Pa., said the SEAL came from a family where military values run deep.

He and his sister were born on an Air Force base in Omaha, Neb., and his brother, Matthew, was born on another base in New Mexico.

Their mother, Jean, was on her way back from Afghanistan on Tuesday night, where she has an accounting job with a U.S. contractor. Their father, Donald, a 20-year Air Force veteran, returned from his job in Iraq about six weeks ago.

They had seen each other just a few weeks ago for Christmas.

"We were so fortunate that we were all able to be together," Brown said.

The family is close, she said, so much so that while Koch was going through his SEAL training in 1999 his father camped out in the woods, trying to put himself through some of the same experiences his son was having.

Family outings might include jumping out of airplanes or going scuba diving, Brown said.

Koch didn't like to talk about his military experiences, according to Brown, though she said it was obvious he loved what he was doing.

"He was humble," she said. "He would prefer that we didn't talk about it. He would just say, 'It's my job.'

Matthew Koch also is in the military serving in Iraq. He will accompany his brother's body home.