“Yes,” she replied, laughing.
Little did Cheryl know just how much meaning her husband’s parting words would soon carry.
On Monday, July 18, their blissful life together of 3½ years tragically ended when the armored fighting vehicle Koehler was driving in Afghanistan rolled over a huge improvised explosive device (IED). The immense firepower catapulted the vehicle into the air, killing Koehler and two other passengers.
“I haven’t accepted it,” said Cheryl Thursday afternoon, sitting Indian-style on her living room floor. “I sit right here with my phone beside me, waiting for him to call me. I check Skype every twenty minutes on my phone to see the ‘little green light’ light up, and him be there,” she said, sobbing.
Click here to visit Facebook page started in Sgt. Edward Koehler's memory.
Cheryl said they spoke nearly every day, were inseparable when he was home and even though she loved him like a husband, he was above all her very best friend.
On the 14th every month, no matter where he was in the world, he would send her a bouquet of flowers, remind-ing her that she was his “Valentine” all year long.
As if death wasn’t cruel enough, the reality is that Koehler was a mere four months away from coming home to stay. It was to be his last tour.
Koehler, a Marine for six years after high school, had joined the Guard for his retirement. He was with the 131st transportation unit, which runs security for military convoys.
“The plan was for him to finish the tour. Then no more drill. We were going to retire January 31,” Cheryl said. “If losing his life for his nation was what God put him here to do, then I will learn to accept it. But this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to go and start the next chapter of our lives.”
Although he was reared and lived most of his life in Pennsylvania and served with his unit there, Koehler had moved to Georgia three years ago after meeting his wife, and considered Ringgold his home. Cheryl said she was grateful that Pennsylvania was honoring her husband in his death, but she hoped the local community would re-member him as well.
“My fear was that all the media about Lebanon (where he reported monthly for Guard duty) would be confusing,” Cheryl said. “I want my hometown to remember him and know that there was a true American hero walking amongst them. All he wanted to do was come home, especially when the tornado hit (Ringgold on April 27). This was his home. This is where our world is.”
Described by loved ones as “a kid at heart,” Koehler spent any free time he had with his family and friends. He and Cheryl spent as much time as possible riding their Honda VTX 1300 motorcycles together, and she said Ed seemed his happiest when he was riding.
They also drove commercial trucks for a living and loved riding as a team. Shelbi, his 20-year-old step-daughter, lovingly described her father as “selfless.”
“I just want people to know how great he was and how much he cared about people he didn’t even know,” Shelbi said. “He left his family so he could go and serve. He was always happy and full of life. He was the father I’ve always wanted.”
Koehler’s mother-in-law, Rita Treadwell of Ringgold, said she never wanted for anything after Koehler came into their lives, and she knew right away her daughter had found the love of her life.
“It was an honor to have known such a man, and I loved him like a son,” Treadwell said. “People search their whole lives to have what Cheryl and Ed had. It was the real thing.”
Local final services at Heritage Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe are still pending, but Cheryl attended a “transfer service” in Dover, Del., Thursday morning, July 21, when her husband was brought stateside to rest.
Cheryl said she was forced to make the trip alone to greet her husband due to a military policy that only “blood relatives” of those KIA (killed in action) could accompany the spouse.
Upon hearing her situation, a concerned military friend contacted a Georgia congressman to speak about the matter. The congressman acted immediately, and Cheryl received word recently that the Edward W. Koehler Bill, named in honor of her husband, has been signed off on, and it is presently en route to Washington.