Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Army Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr., 23, of Hopatcong, N.J.

Sgt. Kirspel was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery (Strike), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Oct. 27, 2010 near the village of Khwaja Kinti, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Drum soldier killed by IED in Afghanistan
Daily Record (Parsippany, N.J.)

A 23-year-old man was killed while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr., 23. of Hopatcong, N.J., died Oct. 27 near the village of Khwaja Kinti of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device, the Defense Department said.

Kirspel was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and had been stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Kirspel joined the Army in July 2006 shortly after graduating from Hopatcong High School, according to a Fort Drum news release. He previously served in Iraq, according to the release.

He was a cannon crewmember and deployed to Afghanistan this past spring in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Kirspel previously had been stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. He arrived at Fort Drum in September 2009.

Kirspel served in Iraq from October 2007 through November 2008.

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, the Marksmanship Qualification Badge and the Driver Mechanic Badge.

Neighbor on Kirspel: ‘What a future this kid has’
By Abbott Koloff
Daily Record (Parsippany, N.J.)

HOPATCONG, N.J. — Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel joined the Army right out of Hopatcong High School in 2006, fulfilling a desire he had since he was just 13-year-old boy. He was months from getting out of the military, friends said, as he served his second tour of duty overseas.

Kirspel, 23, of Hopatcong died early Oct. 27 in Afghanistan from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

“Everyone around here is going to have an empty place in their souls,” said Jeanine Morris, one of his neighbors in Hopatcong.

Kirspel had told at least one friend earlier this week that he was going on patrol and would be back in a week. He already had served a tour of duty in Iraq and was a cannon crew member in Afghanistan. He told friends he’d be back in the U.S. by the end of the year.

He was looking forward to going cross country on a motorcycle after getting out of the service in March, with a stop in Kentucky where he had once been stationed.

“We weren’t going to bring road maps,” said John Davis, 24, of Stanhope. “We were going to pack up and go wherever.”

And he had plans to live with Davis and another friend in a house while he decided what to do with the rest of his life.

“We had big plans,” said James Baker, 25, of Hopatcong. “We were going to have a bar in the basement.”

Kirspel grew up in Hopatcong with two younger brothers, according to friends. Family members did not immediately respond to requests for interviews. But Kirspel’s father put up a Facebook message on Oct. 28 as a tribute to his son, writing that Michael Jr. was his hero and saying he had lost his “best friend.”

“You gave your all for your country, but left us here with heavy hearts,” his father wrote. “Always in my heart, Love, Dad.”

Kirspel had always talked about joining the Army, and one friend said that it had something to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Nine-11 hit him hard,” said Chris Toth, 23, of Hopatcong. “He wanted to do something. … I know [joining the Army] was always something he talked about.”

Hours after Kirspel died, Morris said she saw two military men walk up the steps to Kirspel’s house. She said she knew what that meant, and that it didn’t seem real. She said she and other neighbors have relatives in the military.

“This hits home,” Morris said.

Kirspel used to spend a lot of his spare time driving off-road vehicles, friends said, and loved anything to do with cars and motors. He also loved fishing, hunting and camping. He studied welding at Sussex County Technical School while also attending Hopatcong. That helped when it came to customizing off-road trucks, his friends said. They said he picked the Army because it gave him a chance to do something with mechanics.

Kirspel’s MySpace page says his nickname was “Krispey” and that he loves “offroading and racing.” It also indicates an eclectic musical taste that ranges from Metallica, to the Rolling Stones, to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Friends said he was especially fond of country music.

“You would always hear him coming because he had his country music playing,” Morris said.

Morris remembers Kirspel working on cars in the driveway across the street with his grandfather, posing in front of her garden four years ago on his prom night, helping neighbors shovel snow after storms, cleaning his four-wheel vehicles until they shined and then coming home with his car all covered in mud from a day of off-road adventures.

“We always looked at him and thought, ‘What a future this kid has,’ ” Morris said. “He was just a stellar young man. He loved his family. He loved his country. He was ready to take on anything that was in front of him.”

He joined the Army in July 2006 and served in Iraq from October 2007 to November 2008, according to an Army news release.

He was deployed this past spring from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Afghanistan to be part of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery (Strike), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

Kaceylee Sowinski, 23, of Mount Arlington said she talked to Kirspel by phone recently. She said they didn’t say goodbye, because they never did.

“It’s bad luck,” she said.

Sowinski cried as she talked about her friend, saying he was someone she could talk to about anything, and made her laugh. She visited him in Kentucky a couple of years ago and said she cherishes the time they spent together, going to a military ball at Fort Campbell. She and other friends said Kirspel loved being in the Army, but didn’t want to make it a career. He was uncertain about what to do next.

“He wanted to take some time for himself,” Sowinski said.

But they all said he was looking forward to coming home, and spending time with friends and family.

Morris said Kirspel worked hard to become a sergeant, and was proud of his accomplishments.

“From an early age, he figured out that military service would help give him focus,” Morris said. “He got every kind of badge and medal.”

Army Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr. was killed in action on 10/27/10.

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