Gentz, Joel C. (KIA)

Joel Christopher Gentz, Captain, USAF (KIA)

July 09, 1984 – June 09, 2010

Gentz,1st Lt. Joel Christopher Las Vegas, Nevada (Formerly of Chelsea, MI)
Age 25, was killed in action on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 while on a rescue mission in Afghanistan.

He was born on July 9, 1984 in Rochester, New York, the son of Steve and Judy (Rowe) Gentz. Joel was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul United Church of Christ.

He graduated from Chelsea High School in 2002. While in high school, Joel was active in band, cross country, swimming, football, and was on the tennis team for four years. He was a member of the National Honor Society. Joel earned his 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Joel graduated with honors from Purdue University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering. While at Purdue, Joel was a cadet in Air Force ROTC Detachment 220. A member of Arnold Air Society (the ROTC Honor Society), Joel was honored four years in row as he was chosen by his fellow students to receive the “Warrior Spirit” award.

On June 7, 2008, Joel married Kathryn Sullivan, and she survives. Joel was an avid outdoors-man and athlete. He and Kathryn loved camping, running, hiking and backpacking.

Joel was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM where he completed Combat Rescue Officer training. He later stationed at Nellis AFB, and was deployed to Afghanistan April 24, 2010.

In addition to his beloved wife Kathryn, Joel is survived by his parents, his brother, Jared, and sister, Rachel, all of Chelsea;two grandmothers, Barb Gentz of Howard City, MI and Jeanne Rowe of Rochester, NY; mother-in-law, Anne Sullivan; father- in-law, Patrick (Amanda) Sullivan; brother and sister-in-law, Shawn and Emilie Sullivan; his aunts and uncles, Sharon and Terry Freeman of Raleigh, NC, John and Beth Rowe of Rochester, NY, Karen and Ken Hannah of Buffalo, NY, Cheryl Borner of Buffalo, NY; and many cousins.

He was preceded in death by two grandfathers, Ralph Gentz and Bill Rowe, and an Uncle Dave Borner.

Funeral services will be Thursday, June 24, 10 a.m. at St. Paul United Church of Christ, with Rev. Curt DeMars-Johnson officiating. The family will receive friends at St. Paul Wednesday, June 23 from Noon-3 and 5-8 p.m. A private burial will take place at Oak Grove East Cemetery, Chelsea.

Memorial contributions may be made to the “Joel C. Gentz Memorial Fund” at the Chelsea State Bank. Arrangements by the Cole Funeral Chapel, Chelsea.

Published in Ann Arbor News on Jun. 16, 2010.

1st LT. Joel Christopher Gentz

Born July 09, 1984 in Rochester, New York, Died June 09, 2010 in Afghanistan.

1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz of Grass Lake, Michigan attended Chelsea High School where he ran cross country and was percussionist in the band. He also participated in swimming, tennis and was a member of the National Honor Society. In 2007 he graduated from Purdue University with degrees in aerospace and aeronautical engineering. While there, he particiated in the Air Force ROTC. He was chosen to be part of Iron Key, a senior honorary organization of students who work anonymously each year on a service project that will benefit Purdue.

Joel was the first Purdue ROTC graduate to become a Combat Rescue Officer. He was dedicated to the Air Force and accepted all challenges with eagerness. Joel approached everything he did with a high level of commitment. It was because of his dedication, that he was a true leader. Surrounded by many friends, Joel stood out as a decent person with good character.

Joel received his black belt in Tae-kwon-do. In addition to his already active lifestyle he participated in marathons and triathlons, and enjoyed hiking with his family and friends.

He met his wife, Kathryn while attending college and the couple were married June 07, 2008. Prior to relocating to Nellis Air Force Base, they lived in Albuquerque. Joel received a pilot slot, but turned it down because of his desire to become a Combat Rescue Officer to save his fellow service men. He began the Pararescue pipeline training, a grueling 2 year training including HALO, underwater training, medical training, land navigation, and SERE. He was a member of Arnold Air Society and wing commander of his detachment. Joel was a member of the Iron Key and Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He was currently serving his first deployment in Afghanistan with more than 50 hours of combat time.

He died at age 25 near Forward Operating Base Jackson, Afghanistan, in a helicopter crash. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Michael Flores of Texas, Staff Sgt. David Smith of Alabama, and Senior Airman Benjamin White of Tennessee.

Air Force, 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Burial is at Oak Grove East Cemetery in Chelsea, Michigan.



By Eric Weddle and Justin L. Mack
June 10, 2010

A Purdue University graduate was killed in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday when insurgents attacked a NATO helicopter he was riding in. Joel C. Gentz, 25, died near Forward Operating Base Jackson in a helicopter crash, the Department of Defense announced today. Three other American troops were killed in the attack.

Gentz was a 2007 graduate of the Purdue University Air Force ROTC. He was from Grass Lake, Mich. He was assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. Gentz is the 10th serviceman with Lafayette-area connections to die due to combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004.

News of Gentz’s death spread quickly throughout ROTC and Purdue networks today. Those who knew Gentz spoke of his natural leadership qualities that surpassed others his age, his dedication to physical abilities and his caring for others. Tony Hawkins, Purdue dean of students, had known Gentz since 2005 when Gentz was chosen to be part of Iron Key. The senior honorary organization of students works anonymously each year on a service project that will benefit Purdue.

Col. Mike Silver, former Purdue ROTC Air Force detachment commander, said he was devastated upon hearing the news of Gentz’s death. Silver said he worked with Gentz during his final year at Purdue.

“Maybe it’s because of my age and his age, but it’s like losing a part of your family,” he said. “He was clearly the most well-rounded cadet during his time there. “He was physically and mentally well-rounded, and he was just a damn nice guy.” Silver said in addition to being a stand-out cadet, Gentz became the first Purdue ROTC graduate to become a Combat Rescue Officer.

According to the Air Force Special Operations Command website, the Combat Rescue Officer is an Air Force specialty created to strengthen personnel recovery abilities. In addition to commanding a small team of Pararescue personnel in enemy territory, a Combat Rescue Officer also advises battle staff units in recovery operations.

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