Saturday, March 8, 2014
Courtesy Vague family
Army Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, a Maine native who was one of eight U.S. soldiers killed Saturday in a battle in northern Afghanistan, returned to American soil on Tuesday.
Kirk's mother, Bernadette Kirk Bonner of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, his wife, Megan, and their 3-year-old daughter were among 50 family members who watched at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as a half-dozen flag-draped caskets were removed from a military plane Tuesday morning.
''Joshua believed in fighting for our country,'' Kirk's aunt Christine Arsenault said Tuesday evening from her home in Winthrop. ''I think him laying down his life the way he did is the ultimate sacrifice a person could make. I consider him extremely courageous and a hero.''
Eight U.S. troops and two Afghan security force members were killed when militants opened fire on an outpost with rockets, mortars and heavy-caliber machine guns, according to an initial military report on the battle.
It was the heaviest loss of life for U.S. forces in a single battle since July 2008, when nine American soldiers were killed in the same province.
The Department of Defense had not announced Kirk's death as of Tuesday night.
Kirk, 30, was born in Thomaston and moved to Idaho when he was about 5. Arsenault said he was home-schooled.
While in his late teens, he returned to the Rockland area and received his GED from Camden Hills Regional High School. He worked in the construction industry with his father, John Kirk, a Rockland native who died on Christmas in 2007.
In the fall of 2004, Kirk enrolled in the construction technology program at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. In spring of 2005, he enlisted in the Army.
One of his instructors at SMCC, David Eng, said Kirk was an excellent student and a leader in group projects.
''He was gung ho on going into the service while he was here,'' Eng said. ''He was a real aggressive guy. He would jump right into projects as a lead person. He wasn't a stand-around, hands-in-the-pocket type of person.''
Kirk's cousin, Ben Dinsmore of Killeen, Texas, said Kirk had dreams of joining the Army when he was a kid. He said they played Army when they were growing up.
''We were thick and thin,'' Dinsmore said. ''We would grab any stick that looked like a gun and run around in the woods playing Army. I joined the Coast Guard and he joined the Army right around the same time.''
Kirk served two tours in Afghanistan, the first one lasting 15 months and the second starting in May of this year.
Dinsmore said Kirk was an Army scout whose job was to seek out the enemy. He said Kirk wanted to be on the front lines. He lost some ''brothers'' during the first tour, Dinsmore said, and was ready to go back to finish his mission.
''He laid down the ultimate sacrifice and gave up his life for our country to fight for the values of Americans,'' said Dinsmore, who asked Kirk recently about facing fire from insurgents.
''Josh said he didn't worry about making contact. The most important thing, he said, was getting his soldiers out alive,'' Dinsmore said.
Kirk's aunt, Martine Dinsmore, who lives in Washington state, said he smiled all the time, and when he did something he gave 100 percent.
''I know beyond a doubt that Josh fought valiantly until the bitter end,'' she said. ''He was just a good kid. Josh is my hero, but doggone it, we would rather that he be alive today.''
Kirk and his wife lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., and he was stationed at nearby Fort Carson.
Martine Dinsmore said there will be a memorial service at Fort Carson, and Kirk will be buried in New Hampshire. His wife is originally from Manchester.
Dinsmore said Kirk's mother and five siblings are devastated by his death.
''Bernie is a woman of faith,'' she said. ''That will sustain her as she gathers around her family.''
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:
firstname.lastname@example.org'He was gung ho on going into the service while he was here. He was a real aggressive guy. He would jump right into projects as a lead person. He wasn't a stand-around, hands-in-the-pocket type of person.'
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Courtesy Vague family