Army Sgt. Keith A. Coe
Died April 27, 2010 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom
30, of Auburndale, Fla.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died April 27 in Khalis, Iraq, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device.
(The following was taken from www.theledger.com of Apr. 30, 2010) His men called him "Coe Daddy."
Defense Department officials say Coe died Tuesday in Khalis, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device. Coe was the first to step out of the truck when they arrived on scene for a mission, Jones said. Before anyone else could jump out, he was caught in the explosion, she said.
"All the others in the truck were just kids, just out of high school. It was his duty to get out of that truck first because he was the sergeant in charge," Jones said. "Keith saved their lives."
Coe, who grew up in Fulton, N.Y., and Winter Haven enlisted in the Army in 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis in Washington state in March 2008. He worked his way up to sergeant in about three years and recently deployed to Iraq.
On Friday, family continued to mourn Coe's death. A prankster with a penchant for adventure, Coe was competitive and enjoyed being the best. But he wasn't always an overachiever, said his brother Matt Coe.
The brothers had a rough childhood in Fulton, frequently moving between homes. They didn't always live together. They also didn't always get along, Matt Coe recalled. The two were very different.
"I'm like, 'Let's go to Blockbuster and get a movie.' And he's like, 'Let's get on top of Blockbuster and make a movie,'" he said. "He kicked the crap out of me for the first 11 years of my life. You know, big brother stuff."
When Jones moved to Winter Haven, the brothers began moving back and forth between states, and Keith Coe dropped out of high school. Even when he wasn't in school, Matt Coe still noticed his older brother's drive.
A teenager without a high school diploma, Keith Coe worked his way up to manager at a fast food restaurant in Winter Haven and convinced his brother to join him. They grew close, and Keith Coe decided to return to school.
"I was up in New York and he was like, 'Come down here. I can get you a job.'"
The brothers, two years apart, enrolled in Lake Region High School as seniors and began renting an apartment together. They graduated together in 2000, but then-19-year-old Keith decided against wearing his cap and gown "because it was his brother's day," Jones recalled.
After some trouble with the law for driving under the influence, Coe met his wife, Katrina, at a restaurant in Clearwater where they worked. The two moved in together in Auburndale and married in 2007. Ever the kidder, Coe and his wife wore grass skirts for their Hawaiian-themed wedding held inside his grandmother's house.
As their family expanded with children, Coe began thinking more about the future. His wife had grown up in a military family, and they both enjoyed traveling.
"He had a job and it was a decent job, but if you're in the military for 20 years, you can retire and get a pension," Matt Coe said. "Not having any college, he started thinking this was the best thing he could do."
For Keith Coe, it was a perfect fit.
He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. His unit deployed last August as part of the 3rd Brigade. Jones said Coe visited home about two months ago to see his family and meet his 7-month-old before returning to Iraq. Coe had four children: Ava, 6, Keith Jr., 5, Killian, 2, and the baby, Clover.
"He was making a career of it," Jones said. "He didn't like being separated from his family, but he had a good life."
After the funeral in Washington state, Matt Coe said his brother will be cremated and brought to Winter Haven, where the family will have a memorial service. Until then, the yellow ribbon Jones tied around an oak tree in her yard in anticipation of her grandson's return remains.
"When he went in, I thought about it being dangerous, but he was just so determined to do it. I was thinking most of them come back. He'll come back," she said. "He's strong, he's hard-working, he's determined. I never dreamt for a moment that he would have to sacrifice his life."