Bamberg remembers two fallen comrades
BAMBERG, Germany — It was easy to feel the presence of Staff Sgt. Joshua S. Gire and Pfc. Michael C. Mahr in the packed base chapel in Bamberg on Wednesday.
Several spectators chose to stand outside the chapel, as finding a seat inside was nearly impossible as the service began for the two soldiers, who were killed March 22 in Logar province, Afghanistan. A bus full of soldiers from the 18th Engineer Brigade came as far away as Heidelberg — more than 100 miles — to attend the ceremony. Gire and Mahr were assigned to the 541st Engineer Company “Sapper,” 54th Engineer Battalion, part of the 18th.
“You could line up 100 soldiers and not one would have something bad to say about Staff Sergeant Gire,” said Sam Biornstad, a local bartender, former soldier and a friend of Gire. He also recalled Mahr as being a respectful soldier who visited the base to bowl and have drinks with his comrades.
The two combat engineers were killed when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, according to the Defense Department. No other details about the attack were released.
During the service, family and friends laughed — and a few cried — as remarks were read from soldiers still downrange. The remarks, read by members of the rear detachment, remembered Gire, 28, of Chillicothe, Ohio, and Mahr, 26, of Homosassa, Fla., as part of a close-knit family.
Capt. Nassar Jabour wrote of how Gire could be encouraging and still strictly enforce standards. He remembered the good times when Gire would bail comrades out of jail, or when he wound up sleeping on a friend’s couch because he disobeyed his wife’s orders and hung out late at the bowling alley with friends.
“I can understand why she wouldn’t want him to go,” Jabour wrote. “When he was around, you never wanted him to go. There was something special about the way he made you feel: invincible, safe.”
Gire was a third-generation soldier, according to his Army biography, and was serving on his second deployment to Afghanistan. He had also deployed to Kosovo and Iraq.
Capt. Brandon Drobenak, commander of the 541st, wrote about the last time he spoke with Gire, before the staff sergeant went out on what would be his last mission. Gire spoke of a recent trip to Spain with his family and his aspirations to become a drill sergeant.
“Our talk reconfirmed everything that I already knew about Staff Sgt. Gire. He was doing what he loved to do — leading soldiers.”
Mahr was one of those soldiers. He was remembered for his dedication to his family and the motivation he brought to the job everyday.
“Pfc. Mahr was an outstanding soldier that completed every task to the best of his ability,” Drobenak wrote. “There is no doubt in my mind that under Staff Sgt. Gire’s leadership he would continue to grow as an outstanding soldier.”
Gire is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, son Nicholas and daughter Riley. Mahr is survived by wife Stephanie and son Jadon, according to a program provided at the service.