Father’s heartfelt words offer healing, attention to PTSD

Gold Star father’s second collection of poetry published

Staff Writer

When William Koch Jr. writes his poetry, which teems with a bittersweet combination of national pride and overwhelming grief, he feels he has special support.

“I feel like they are pushing and pulling me to write about patriotism, to write about feelings,” Koch told Greater Media Newspapers. “I think I’m carrying on what Steven and Lynne would want.”

Koch was speaking about two of his three children, U.S. Army Cpl. Steven R. Koch and Lynne C. Koch.

“It became a patriotic passion, and that’s where it came from, to keep that effort that Steven volunteered [for],” he said. “I’ve been drafted. I’m trying to pick up that baton of both my kids and carry their message of dedication, caring and love of family and love of country.”

Steven, who was a graduate of East Brunswick High School, was killed serving his country in Afghanistan in March 2008.

A paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Steven was 23 when he died from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in a vehicle outside the building where his platoon was located in the Sabari District. The building collapsed on the entire group. He and another soldier died; others were wounded.

Steven had enlisted after seeing the impact of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on his brother William “Billy” Koch III, who was working in New York City at the time.

Lynne, Steven’s older sister, took her own life in May 2010 at the age of 29. William believes Lynne’s loss was the result of post-traumatic stress due to the painful loss of her brother.

Thus William began writing, the words flowing from the powerful emotions he was experiencing, and the result was a collection of poetry titled “Casualties of War,” which was published in 2011. Now William has released another collection of poems, “Patriotic Passions,” and again he feels his children pushing him forward.

“Lynne is the person that loved too much, almost. Steven was the hard-nosed, dedicated person,” he said, noting there is a therapeutic quality to his poems, which he hopes will have a two-pronged effect on readers.

“It’s to help people identify with the sorrow and the heartbreak and try to be proud of what their family member or friend did,” he said. “The other fold is to reach out to people who aren’t going through that so they can understand it, why these people are so sad or reclusive.”

As in Koch’s first collection, the poems are broken up by subject or theme, which include anguish and spirituality.

In addition to those themes, there are examples of national pride in the poems.

William acknowledges that many families who have lost a loved one to a war can become disillusioned or bitter with their country.

That wasn’t on the table for the Koch family.

“The patriotic side is ingrained in my family,” he said. “My father was in World War II, as were all my uncles on both sides of my family. They served in the South Pacific, in Europe.

“They saw their share of stuff, too, [but] they didn’t talk about it a lot. Little by little it came out when they got older,” he added. “I was always patriotic and so were the kids. We always had it. Steven took it to the next step by joining the service.”

William also wants to make sure the efforts of individuals and groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Rutgers University ROTC, are recognized.

Should the book become successful, William hopes to use proceeds to benefit various memorials or organizations helping wounded veterans.

“They are the biggest group that really needs our help right now,” he said.

To purchase either book, visit the website at www.williamkochjr.tateauthor.com.