Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Kuglics

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Kuglics, 25, of North Canton, Ohio

SSgt. Kuglics was assigned as special agent to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; died June 5, 2007 in Kirkuk, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Tech. Sgt. Ryan A. Balmer.

Green airman killed in Iraq
By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

No worries. No regrets.

That was the motto of Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Kuglics, who left home for the Air Force two months after graduating from Green High School in 2000 and was killed in Iraq on Tuesday.

He was the first Green High School graduate to die in the war.

Kuglics was on his second tour in Iraq and was an agent with a special forces unit and an anti-terrorism task force within the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, said his parents, Donna and Les Kuglics.

He was killed along with another member of his team, Tech. Sgt. Ryan A. Balmer, 33, of Mishawaka, Ind., when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle in Kirkuk, the Defense Department said.

His parents said an Iraqi translator was also injured in the bombing.

Kuglics, who was not married, turned 25 last Thursday.

He called his family Monday to say he had received their birthday gifts -- a Spider-Man Xbox 360 video game, a bottle of dill pickles and a pepperoni sausage.

``He was a perfect son, and the perfect big brother,'' his mother said.

His sister, Emily Kuglics, 18, is to graduate tonight from Green High School in ceremonies at E.J. Thomas Hall.

``He could walk into a room and the whole room would be glowing and you just knew he was there,'' she said during a Beacon Journal interview with her family at her home Wednesday morning.

Kuglics first worked in satellite communications and served in Kuwait and South Korea prior to his deployments to Iraq, his family said.

He was based at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, served his first tour from March to September 2006 and had been in Iraq this time since March for his second six-month tour.

He bought a house several months ago, his mother said, and his parents had been keeping his dog Hunter during this deployment and the previous one.

His father, 47, a Hewlett-Packard customer field engineer, was working from home Tuesday when Hunter, an American foxhound-beagle mix that Matthew rescued from a shelter in Dayton, began barking.

Les Kuglics went to the door and saw three men in Air Force dress uniforms.

At first, he said, he did not know why they had come to his home.

``One man had a real sad look on his face and he said, `I regret to inform you,' and I said, `Stop right there,' '' Kuglics said.

The father shut the door, put his son's dog in a cage inside and went back to the door.

``It didn't sink in until I let them in,'' he said.

``I just lost it.''

Kuglics was the second Green resident killed in the war.

Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Brian Crabtree, 31, of Green, a Lake High School graduate and Cuyahoga Falls police officer, was killed in action nearly one year ago on June 8, 2006.

Students at Green High School were informed by Principal Gary Geis on Wednesday morning that one of their own had been killed in action.

``He was just a great kid,'' the principal said.

``He was the kind any parent would be proud to have as a son.''

There was a moment of silence at the school at the time of the announcement, the principal said.

The flag at the school was lowered to half-staff Wednesday morning and a wreath was placed at the flagpole by officials with the Air Force Junior ROTC unit at the school, the principal said.

The airman played soccer in high school and continued to play in the Air Force. This past weekend, his mother said, her son played a game with some of his comrades at his base in Iraq.

The mother, an accounting supervisor for Shin-Etsu Silicones of America, said the family spoke to their son regularly on the phone and exchanged e-mails daily.

``I e-mailed him every morning when I got to work to say good morning,'' she said.

On Tuesday, though, she sent him an e-mail but got no reply.

``By the time I sent it, he was already gone,'' she said.

While her son could have gone to several colleges after high school to study engineering, including Arizona State and the University of Cincinnati, he chose the Air Force, she said.

``He decided his calling was to serve his country,'' she said.

His plan was to retire from the Air Force after 20 years to teach high school history. He had been taking college courses, Donna Kuglics said.

``Matthew was exceptional,'' she said.

``People who didn't know him, need to know that there was not a better person out there, a better son,'' she said, noting his great sense of humor.

``He was a kid at heart. He was never gonna give up that part of himself.''

She said if there was an argument between his parents or an issue between them and Emily, Matthew ``could take any situation and bring our family together... He could fix it and make it right.''

Donna Kuglics said she wants the public to always remember her son.

``Thank a soldier, thank a veteran,'' she said. ``Don't forget the fallen heroes.''

The staff sergeant's father said his son told him this before he left for Iraq:

``I am stepping up to do this. I want to fight terrorism. I don't want some young guy my age who is married with children to possibly sacrifice his life.''

His son, the father said, did step up to the plate.

The airman's sister, Emily, who will go to Stark State College in the fall and plans to study special education, said she will not forget her brother's laugh.

``Even now, I still hear him laughing,'' she said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Kuglics was killed in action on 6/5/07.

No comments: