A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier and father of four children who was on his first combat deployment was killed Tuesday by an enemy bomb in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.
Sgt. Keith A. Coe, 30, from the central-Florida city of Auburndale, was a Stryker brigade artilleryman with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, according to military officials. He died in the city of Khalis in the eastern province of Diyala, north of Baghdad, which has long simmered with Shia-Sunni and Arab-Kurd tensions.
Coe belonged to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment. His unit deployed last August as part of 3rd Brigade, which is nearing the end of its third tour of Iraq since the war began.
According to unit records, Coe enlisted in the Army in 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis in March 2008.
Originally from Fulton, N.Y., he is survived by his wife, Katrina, and four children ages 7 months to 6 years, according to The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla.
“He was a fun-loving, crazy guy. He’d do anything for anybody,” Jason Hutchinson, a friend from Fulton, told The Ledger.
Coe is the second soldier from Lewis-McChord to die in Iraq in the past week. Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Worrell, 35, died April 22 in Baghdad of injuries sustained in a noncombat incident.
Deaths of local soldiers from hostile attacks in Iraq have become a rarity, especially compared with the heavy toll taken in Afghanistan. Coe is the second Lewis-McChord soldier in Iraq reported killed in enemy attacks since February 2009. In Afghanistan, 35 soldiers from the local base have been reported killed just since last summer.
In Khalis, Iraq, where Coe was killed, the roads nearby were once lined with bombs, and insurgents last year regularly fired rockets at nearby Forward Operating Base Warhorse.
But in January, a News Tribune writer who was embedded with 3rd Brigade reported that millions of dollars in U.S.-funded projects had poured into the province. In the Khalis area, the projects included a chicken cooperative, housing for refugees and a brick factory providing jobs for hundreds.
At that time, roadside bombs and rocket attacks on military bases had all but dried up in the Khalis area, according to the report.
Matt Misterek: 253 597-8472