Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Army Sgt. Major Michael S. Kurtz

Remember Our Heroes

Sergeant Major Michael "Mike" S. Kurtz: On May 12, 2010 Sergeant Major Michael "Mike" S. Kurtz, of Yelm, Washington, passed away peacefully while scouting hunting locations by the Deschutes River near his home. He was 52 years old.

Mike was born on January 14th, 1958 to Jack and Emily "Jackie" Kurtz of Williamsport, PA. Mike graduated from Edinboro University with a Baccalaureate of Science Degree in Biology. He entered active duty with the Army on January 14th, 1982 and was assigned as a Biological Sciences Assistant at Letterman Army Institute of Research, Presidio of San Francisco, CA.

His military career includes the following assignments: Plans, Operations, Training and Security Section NCOIC at Letterman Army Institute of Research, Presidio of San Francisco, CA; Laboratory Liaison Noncommissioned Officer to the Office of The Surgeon General of the Army, Health Care Systems Support Activity, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Platoon Sergeant/NCOIC, Blood Donor Center, 16th Medical Logistics Battalion, Seoul, Korea; Department of Pathology NCOIC, Reynolds Army Community Hospital, Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Department of Pathology and Area Laboratory Services NCOIC, Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Washington; Chief, Medical Laboratory NCO, 18th MEDCOM, Seoul, Korea; Sergeant Major, Department of Pathology and Area Laboratory Services. He recently served as the Command Sergeant Major for Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Sergeant Major Kurtz' military education includes the Warrior Leaders Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course, the Security Managers Course, and the United States Army Sergeant's Major Academy, Class 51.

Sergeant Major Kurtz' awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (2 OLC), the Army Commendation Medal (4 OLC), the Army Achievement Medal (11 OLC), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal (1 Bronze Star). He was a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit (O2M3) and was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit Medal.

Mike was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed hunting and fishing with his friends. He was a member of the Free Masons and was active in many conservation causes and charitable organizations supporting his fellow soldiers.

This was posted by "Mitch" on (a fishing site):

"It is with the deepest regret to inform you that Sergeant Major Michael Kurtz passed away on May 12. Mike had been missing for a couple days and was found on the evening of May 14. It appears that he passed away quietly doing what he loved to do, scouting for game in one of his favorite secluded hunting areas near his home.

Mike has been a fantastic friend to many of us here at Madigan and this community. He was with me since my arrival in August when Madigan and Western Regional Medical Command became separate. He held the position of Command Sergeant Major for approximately a year, excelling in all facets of taking care of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families.

He admirably served his country for over 28 years and truly did a superb job getting the mission done as Madigan’s Command Sergeant Major while exemplifying our spirit of caring with compassion.

We lost a great Soldier. Mike was my trusted adviser, confidant and most importantly, my close and loyal friend.

We will all miss him very much. Please keep Mike's family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Godspeed Mike, we had some great times fishing together.

Mitch also posted this:

It was springer fishing last year with Mike that the idea to take Wounded Warriors out fishing at the WTC was born. As you can see, he was a strong supporter of the guys while at the hospital and would take them fishing on his own. He always said fishing was its own therapy. Hopefully I can continue to make him proud. Time to dust off the suit again.

Thanks guys.

Searchers discovered the body of Sgt. Maj. Michael S. Kurtz, 52, of Yelm, near the edge of the Deschutes River on Friday night, more than a day after his wife reported him missing.

Pamela Kurtz came home last Wednesday to find her husband, Sgt. Maj. Michael Kurtz, nowhere to be found. Kurtz had left behind his wallet, wedding ring and keys. But his bike was missing.

Two months prior, the 52-year-old top soldier at Madigan Army Medical Center had been cited for drunk driving. Pamela said the arrest had made her husband irritable. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, two days before he disappeared Kurtz came home and told his wife that his career in the military had been ruined.

Searchers combed a wooded area near the Deschutes where Kurtz was known to hunt. They found his bike at the end of a logging road. Shortly thereafter, they found his body near the river's banks.

Kurtz had an empty beer can in his hand and a prescription pain killer at his feet. An autopsy has been performed, but police are waiting until a toxicology report comes back to determine a cause of death.

"We lost a great soldier," Kurtz's commanding officer told the News-Tribune. "Mike was my trusted adviser, confidant and, most importantly, my close and loyal friend. We will all miss him."

Investigators for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, which led the search-and-rescue operation, said foul play is not suspected.

Kurtz’s wife, Paula, reported her husband missing on the afternoon of May 13, 24 hours after he last was seen, by a neighbor.

She told a sheriff’s deputy that she arrived home at their property southeast of Yelm the previous evening to find his bike missing and his wedding ring, wallet and keys in the house, according to investigative reports reviewed by The Olympian. She said he rode his bike on Weyerhaeuser property to the south to hunt and scout for deer.

She said her husband had come home from work May 11 “extremely upset and irritable and became upset with her for ‘small, silly things,’” according to a report. She said her husband was cited for driving under the influence two months ago, and “his career in the military had been ruined.” Records from Thurston County District Court confirm the citation. A court hearing was scheduled for May 26.

The sheriff’s office began the search Friday in the area where he was known to hunt with the assistance of K9s and 150 soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Kurtz was found leaning downward with his arms crossed and a empty beer can in his right hand, a report said. Two beer cans were near his body. A backpack containing a full can of beer was nearby. A white-colored pill, later identified as the prescription painkiller Roxicet, was found at his feet, a report said. His wife told a deputy that her husband had recently had knee surgery.

Kurtz was born and grew up in the Williamsport, Pa. He entered the Army shortly after graduating from Edinboro University, near Erie, Pa., in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

His military career involved assignments nationwide, including an earlier stint at Fort Lewis. During an assignment in South Korea as the chief medical laboratory non-commissioned officer for the 18th Medical Command, he received the Army Commendation Medal for pulling a woman from the Han River and performing life-saving CPR, his brother, Thomas, said during a telephone interview from his home in Williamsport.

He returned to South Sound in July 2004 as the non-commissioned officer in charge of Madigan’s pathology department. He was promoted as the hospital’s top enlisted soldier last summer.

Thomas Kurtz said his brother loved to hunt and fish. “He was a true outdoorsman,” he said.

The two talked once a week. Thomas Kurtz said he was unaware of his reported depression and his driving-under-the-influence citation. He said news of his brother’s death came as a shock.

“I didn’t hear anything negative at all from him,” he said. “He wouldn’t have talked about it.”

He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Paula Kurtz, his daughter Nicole Kurtz, his mother Jackie Kurtz, brother Tom Kurtz, and sister Sue Stopper. He was preceded in death by his father, Jack Kurtz.

A military service honoring Sergeant Major Kurtz will be held at the North Fort Chapel, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

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