Goins family receives word: son dies in Iraq
Second Lieutenant James Michael Goins, 23, an Army officer from Carroll County, was killed in Iraq Sunday during an armored assault in the militant city of Najaf, sources have confirmed.
A Pentagon official said Monday that Goins is the first Iraq war fatality from Carroll County.
Lt. Goins was an armor platoon leader with the 1st Cavalry Division, which had just been brought into Najaf to aid in a serious battle between Shiite militants and the U.S. Marines 1st Expeditionary Unit on Sunday. He died at 6:40 a.m. Iraq time, his family was told.
The young officer was the son of Jim and Tammy Goins of Oak Grove, and the husband of Paula Goins of Ft. Hood, Texas. The couple had no children.
Services have not been set for Lt. Goins, and his body has not yet been returned to the U.S.
He is also survived by his sisters, Mandy, 20, a student at North Arkansas College; and Sarah, 14, a freshman at Green Forest High School.
His father, Jim Goins, a basketball coach at Green Forest High School, said Monday that two Army officers had informed the family in person of the death and the circumstances of their son's last mission.
Though his voice was weak and broken at times, Jim Goins described a son that was destined to be a military man, and always at peak performance.
Lt. James Michael Goins was raised in Carroll County, but moved to Kansas in 1995 with his parents.
He graduated from high school as the valedictorian of his class at Bonner Springs High School in Kansas, where he maintained a 4.0-grade average and was captain of both the football and basketball teams.
He graduated from Kansas State University's ROTC military program in 1999 and was named outstanding cadet, which didn't surprise his parents.
His father said, "He was good at everything he did ---- he always tried his best. He was well-disciplined, but had a good sense of humor. He organized a campaign for Carroll County people to send teddy bears to Iraq so his unit could distribute them. He was an officer and a gentleman, in every sense of the term."
His desire was always to be a military man, his father said, even though he was invited to try out for the football team at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.
The family moved back to Carroll County several years ago, and the young soldier moved on to Fort Hood for armor training in the 1st Cavalry, where he again excelled.
He married his wife, Paula, in Fort Hood on Aug. 4, 2001.
He was deployed to Iraq in January.
His father said one of the soldiers told him he was the best lieutenant he had ever served under.
Jim said his son had further ambitions in the Army, and was planning Air Assault and Special Forces training.
With over 17,000 soldiers, the 1st Cavalry Division is the premier heavy-armored division in today's Army.
Lt. Goins was immediately singled out to lead an armored platoon in Iraq when he was deployed there.
He was apparently leading his platoon with four armored vehicles when he was killed Sunday. Wire service and other news reports confirm such a battle occurred, but there were no other details available. Two other soldiers were also killed, but no information on them was available.
An Army official at the Pentagon in Washington hinted that he knew of the situation, but told Carroll County Newspapers Monday that he could not release any details.
Lt. Goins called home on Father's Day in June, and talked to his dad.
"He said he was doing fine," Jim Goins said.
Two weeks ago, unable to sleep, Jim Goins got online on his computer and discovered his son online as well, and they began sending messages to each other, for more than two hours, Jim said.
"That was the last time I told him we were proud of him," his father said.
"I ended our messages the way I always do, with the letters KYHD. Keep Your Head Down."
There are more than a dozen Carroll County soldiers, men and women, stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Lt. Goins is the first soldier from this county to be killed in the conflicts.
Jim Goins choked back tears as he said, "I want to tell all daddies to hug their boys and their girls, and hold them tight."