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Old 22 September 2017, 14:31
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Brothers in Arms: The Tragedy in Small-Town America Mike & Chris Goski

I found the attached article below which brings a sadness that words cannot begin to describe. It's hard to fathom that we don't have better services available to help the transition back.

WSJ - Suicide of Chris & Mike Goski

Brothers in Arms: The Tragedy in Small-Town America
Chris and Mike Goski belonged to a generation of rural boys who enlisted after 9/11 and shouldered the greatest burden for the nation’s defense


By Michael M. Phillips
Sept. 22, 2017 10:55 a.m. ET
Mike Goski stared into the steel casket at his twin brother’s body, dressed for eternity in a deep-blue Marine Corps jacket with red piping and brass buttons. It was like looking into a cruel mirror, Chris’s face, so like his own, distorted by a wound the mortician couldn’t conceal.

Alone together for the last time, Mike slipped a knife into his brother’s hand, a weapon for Valhalla, the mythical refuge for fallen warriors.

Chris was a born fighter from Red Oak, Texas, a Marine commando with six tours of duty. In combat, he could orchestrate from the chaos a lethal strike by jet fighters, helicopters, mortar and artillery, raining hot metal on enemies a few hundred yards away.

At the cemetery, as “Taps” played, comrades of the Goski twins stood at attention, Marines in white hats and Special Forces in green berets. Mike, an Army Special Forces patch on his own shoulder, asked that none cry.

“Chris had only one fear that I’m aware of, and it was not death,” Mike said as he stood beside the coffin that held his twin. “He feared providing anything less than absolutely perfect close air support for his brothers. He feared failing them when they needed him the most.”

The twins were small-town boys, part of a generation who came of age at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since 2001, volunteers from such places—many of them out-of-the-way counties struggling with lagging economies, drug addiction and limited options—have shouldered the greatest burden for America’s defense. They enlisted, fought and died in greater proportions than those from relatively more prosperous urban areas, an analysis of government military data by The Wall Street Journal found.

Using Pentagon data on the hometowns of 6,800 military casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2016, the Journal found that 23% came from small towns and rural areas, even though those places made up just 17% of the U.S. population. By contrast, 23% of those killed came from core counties of U.S. metropolitan areas of more than one million people, where 29% of Americans live.

The Goskis’ story is one of brothers at home and at arms. Chris was born first, and Mike followed. That was the way it would always be. Growing up, Chris threw the first punch, and Mike leapt to his defense. Chris quit high school; Mike did the same. Chris enlisted in the military the day after 9/11; Mike wasn’t far behind.

“The thing Mike loved most in the world was Chris,” their father said, “and the thing Chris loved most in the world was Mike.”

After burying his brother in 2012, Mike was left to find a new path.

This account of his journey is based on military, police and medical records, as well as journals, emails, texts, videos and photographs; and interviews with relatives and friends, and comrades and officials from Army Special Forces, U.S. Special Operations Command, Marine Special Operations Command, the 10th Mountain Division and the 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Co.

‘Little destructors’
Chris and Mike Goski were born May 1, 1981. They grew up in Red Oak, at the time a town of 4,300 people and countless crepe myrtles, 20 miles south of Dallas. The family lived on a street of single-story brick houses.

The boys were fraternal twins with good looks so similar it was hard to distinguish one from the other. Swapping places was a favorite classroom prank.

Their father, Tim Goski, worked in trucking after falling short of a career as a basketball player, keeping the ropy, muscled arms of an athlete. Their mother, Kathy, was a nurse who spoke with the gravelly voice of a smoker. They seemed destined for each other: Kathy’s father was captured by the Germans after the D-Day invasion; Tim’s father was in a raiding party that tried to liberate his prisoner-of-war camp.

The Goskis tried to raise the twins—obedient, as young boys—with a firm yet loving hand. Chris and Mike developed a charming, rambunctious energy that attracted friends. They turned a nearby storm drain into a clubhouse, squeezing in pals to lounge on a scrap of green carpet. Chris had a dirt bike that he used to ferry friends to the park, like a bus driver on his route.

The boys once skipped a midday school assembly to host dozens of friends at their house while Tim and Kathy were at work. When the authorities arrived, Chris opened the door in a bathrobe, feigning illness even as his pals could be seen making a ruckus on the roof.

The mischief eventually veered into delinquency. Their father, Tim, had quit drinking around the time Chris and Mike were 14 years old, yet the lure of substance-fueled escape seemed to pass from one generation to the next.

The boys sometimes drove from Red Oak, a dry town, into the city where they would slip a homeless man a few dollars to buy them Schlitz Malt Liquor. They hid in culverts or half-built houses to smoke pot. They grew bolder, buying and selling drugs in tough South Dallas neighborhoods.

In Red Oak, the Goski brothers became the usual suspects. Local police knew them by name and routinely chased the boys into cornfields and creek beds. One night, an officer knocked on the door of their house and said, “Mrs. Goski, do you know your son is out front smoking marijuana?”

A judge later hearing the matter ordered Chris to clean police cruisers as punishment. The teenager took the opportunity to sabotage the lights and sirens on the cars.

Chris was the impulsive leader; Mike, the thoughtful follower. “Shut the f— up, Mike, and come on,” Chris would say. In fights, he would mouth off and throw the first punch, and Mike would step in to back up his brother. After one such bout, Mike told his mother: “I was just standing there thinking, ‘Chris, don’t do it, don’t say it.’”

Chris also liked to steal. Once he came out of Best Buy with a car-alarm system under his jacket. Another time he pocketed a perfume bottle, just because it was in reach.

“They just really were crazy,” said Jenny Jones, who met the twins in 8th grade and dated Mike. “They were willing-to-do-anything type kids, little destructors.”

Tim cajoled, yelled and, at times, he swung a belt or brandished a Bible. Kathy tried a softer approach, and the boys were more likely to confide in her. She worried her husband’s ire pushed the twins to sins Tim hoped they would resist. When the boys were 16, Tim and Kathy moved the family, which included a younger son J.P., to Irving, Texas, a larger city, hoping to spare the twins from a future in prison or the morgue.

“They were rebels in a little Texas town,” their father said, a label that was tough to shake.

Chris Goski, left, and Mike Goski with their grandmother Evelyn Goski.
Chris Goski, left, and Mike Goski with their grandmother Evelyn Goski.

Chris was good at math, and Mike loved military history, but they couldn’t abide by school rules. The twins repeated 9th grade three times, and Chris finally gave up. Soon, so did Mike. They earned GEDs when they were 17. Mike had reached 6 foot, an inch taller than Chris.

The move to Irving led to more trouble. Chris ripped off a drug dealer, and his parents, worried for his safety, sent him to live with his grandmother in New Jersey in 1999.

With his brother gone, Mike slipped deep into drugs. In early 2001, during a four-day bender of pot and speed, he tried to leap from his father’s car as they drove a Texas highway. Tim and Kathy checked him into a hospital treatment program, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A doctor prescribed an antipsychotic medicine that slowed Mike’s thinking and bloated him to 275 pounds.

Chris returned from New Jersey that spring. By the end of summer, the brothers hit bottom, aiming pistols at each other while high on PCP.

Tim and Kathy put Chris into a drug-rehabilitation program, where he watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks on TV with another patient, a former Marine who immediately declared he would return to the service.

Chris called his father and said, “Come get me the hell out of here.”

The following day, Chris went to the Marine Corps recruiter’s office in an Irving strip mall and enlisted in the Reserve. Mike also tried to enlist, but Marine and Army recruiters rejected him for being overweight.

Months later, when Chris returned from boot camp, he urged Mike to stop taking the antipsychotic pills. Mike complied, and he dropped 70 pounds on a diet of fish and vegetables—and by wrapping himself in trash bags as he worked unloading trucks at a warehouse.

Mike’s mission
In late 2002, the Army enlisted the newly trim Mike Goski. He served first with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan and, following the invasion of Iraq, did a tour of Sadr City, a hostile Baghdad neighborhood.

The brothers visited each other whenever possible. Mike once showed up in civilian clothes at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Chris’s home base. An officer there, thinking it was Chris, yelled, “Goski! What are you doing out of uniform?” Mike performed a lazy stretch and said, “I didn’t feel like putting it on today.”

The twins found each other in Iraq, when Chris talked his way onto a helicopter to visit Mike in Baghdad.

Mike embraced Army life and, after his second combat tour, was eager to advance beyond his infantry unit. “I’m better than this,” he told friends.

In 2006, Mike was invited to audition for 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force. The elite unit is assigned difficult counterterrorism missions.

Mike held his own among the hardened soldiers. But the Army evaluator recommended he first serve on a standard Special Forces team, which conducts raids and trains allied forces. “Needs more experience,” Mike’s evaluator wrote on Oct. 10, 2006.

Mike won a spot in the Special Forces selection course. A third of the class gave up after standing in formation for hours in a cold North Carolina rain. He trained as an explosives expert, graduating in 2008 to become a Green Beret.

The same year, Mike learned he was going to be a father. His girlfriend, Alexis Elliott, a former truck driver with the 82nd Airborne Division, was pregnant. When the sonogram showed two heartbeats, Mike burst into laughter and raced out to call his brother.

Mike Goski, left, and Chris Goski with Mike's twins, also named Mike and Chris.
Mike Goski, left, and Chris Goski with Mike's twins, also named Mike and Chris.

Alexis had a rough pregnancy and spent weeks in a hospital bed. Chris and Mike cooked a Thanksgiving turkey dinner and brought it to the hospital. When the twins were born, the couple named them Mike and Chris.

Mike and Alexis married and bought a house in Clarksville, Tenn., adjacent to Fort Campbell, Ky., where Mike had joined the 5th Special Forces Group.

As Mike bounced between war and domestic life, the couple drifted apart. Alexis cared for the twins, while Mike sought refuge in his man cave, where he kept a sofa, computer and his guns.

Death’s door
Chris started unraveling in 2006, during his second tour of Iraq.

At an outpost in Ramadi, a fellow Marine was shot in the head while trying to spot an enemy sniper, and Chris helped retrieve the mortally wounded man.

Chris had a reputation as untroubled by death, whether witnessing it or delivering it. After this shooting, though, other Marines saw that he would spend hours at night alone, smoking unfiltered Camels.

When he returned to Texas, the panic attacks started. One night he called Tim from a Bennigan’s restaurant in Dallas. “I think I’m having a heart attack,” he said. Chris’s mother, a nurse, recognized it as anxiety.

Mike, left, and Chris Goski in Iraq in 2006.
Mike, left, and Chris Goski in Iraq in 2006.

Chris returned to Iraq in 2007. One night, in a freak accident, static electricity from a helicopter’s blades detonated the explosives carried by a soldier. The blast blew up the man, and his remains drew feral dogs.

The commander, worried about land mines, forbade anyone from retrieving the body until dawn. Chris asked permission to shoot the dogs, but the officer didn’t want to alert insurgents of the Marines’ position.

Chris and two other men watched as the dogs ate their fill. In the morning, he and the others collected what was left.

A couple of months after Chris returned home, he learned the woman he was dating was pregnant. He told friends he wasn’t serious about the relationship, and he worried he couldn’t afford child support. Their daughter was born in early 2009, shortly before Chris returned to Iraq for a fifth tour.

Like his brother, Chris moved to an elite force. In August 2009, he earned a spot in the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, the Marine Corps equivalent of the Green Berets. Mike gave him a .45-caliber Springfield 1911 pistol to mark the promotion.

The commandos wanted Chris for his skill coordinating air and artillery attacks. In Iraq, Chris excelled at his job with an uncanny ability to picture airspace in three dimensions during combat. But back home at the base in North Carolina, friends watched him grow disheveled and edgy.

His decline accelerated during an eight-month tour of Afghanistan that began in 2010. The pace of operations wore at Chris. The team would return from a mission at 4 a.m., high on adrenaline. The men would sleep a few hours, then get up early to plan the next operation.

Chris turned to drugs to help him sleep and to wake him up. His close friend, intelligence specialist Doug Webb, could hear Chris rattling his pill bottles in the adjoining room.

On April 24, 2011, the Marines found five insurgent bombs on the road. Dave Day, the team’s explosives expert, defused four of them. He was lying on his stomach to work on the last one when 80 pounds of homemade explosives blew up beneath him.

Chris retrieved Dave’s helmet and jaw, then waved off the medevac helicopter. There was nothing more of Dave to collect.

On their last mission, in June 2011, the Marines landed in an eight-hour fire fight. Chris directed bombers and helicopters overhead. At one point, several Marines were pinned down by a Taliban machine-gunner. Chris called for an airstrike, but the help came too late. One Marine, Bill Woitowicz, was killed. Chris blamed himself.

He described the loss in an email to Mike, who would soon return to Afghanistan. “This is my teams 4th casualty, 2nd KIA,” Chris wrote. “He was our young dude. not as sad as the last one though.”

To his cousin Becky Goski Fantuzzo, Chris wrote, “The war is still raging here in Afghanistan and at home people really have no idea.”

Returning to the U.S. was difficult for Chris. “All of us were supposed to die out there,” his Marine comrade Doug Webb said. “So to come back to normal life—it just doesn’t feel right.”

When Chris got back to Camp Lejeune, he bought a VW Jetta and tried to blend into stateside life, slapping a ”COEXIST” sticker on his bumper as a joke.

Chris Goski.
Chris Goski.

Chris lived in a two-bedroom apartment, the carpet pocked with cigarette burns. Two M4 rifles usually rested on the sofa. He kept a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol, and he wore a .38-caliber revolver in a holster. All the weapons were loaded, he told friends, in case any authorities came for him.

In the summer of 2011, Chris visited his uncle, Paul “Bingo” Goski, in New Jersey. Uncle Bingo had served in the Marines in the 1980s. One of the nights, Chris chugged nine beers and then sobbed. He begged his uncle to help him buy heroin. “I just want to get some to feel normal,” he said.

At 2:30 a.m. that night, the police called Uncle Bingo: Chris, in a blackout from pills and alcohol, had crashed his Jetta. A judge later went easy on Chris after hearing his military record.

Around Christmas that year, Chris flew home to Texas. While switching planes in Atlanta, he experienced heart palpitations that an airport medical team diagnosed as a panic attack.

He finally arrived in Dallas, intoxicated on alcohol and Xanax, a prescription antianxiety drug. At the kitchen table, Chris showed his father footage of himself calling in planes to hit enemy fighters. Then Chris broke down. “I’m not doing too good, Dad,” he told his father. “I need a rest.”

His commanders ordered a mental-health evaluation on April 20, 2012. The examiner diagnosed him with anxiety disorder but concluded Chris was no threat to himself or others.

Chris started counseling sessions a week later. The counselor noted that Chris denied considering suicide because “he would never do that to his brother.” He was prescribed antidepressants and antianxiety drugs.

On May 8, military clinicians said that “his anxiety was such that he needed consistent care/treatment,” and ordered him on limited duty, preventing him from returning overseas. They warned Chris not to mix his prescription drugs with alcohol, which would worsen his symptoms.

Chris’s former girlfriend had petitioned a court for higher child-support payments, which nearly tripled to $1,232 a month. He fell behind on rent, lost his apartment and moved in with a fellow Marine and his buddy’s girlfriend in Holly Ridge, N.C.

On June 7, he and Doug Webb attended a suicide-prevention lecture led by a general and his wife. The couple had lost a son in war and another to suicide. During the talk, Chris told Doug, “We’ve all had the gun in our mouth at one point.” The thought of Mike kept him from pulling the trigger, he said.

On June 8, Chris reclined on the guest bed at his friend’s house. On his laptop, he entered a search for post-traumatic stress disorder. He watched a video of battle scenes from Afghanistan as Johnny Cash sang “Hurt.”

I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.

I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.

Then Chris raised the .45-caliber pistol his brother had given him, put it to his right ear and pulled the trigger. He was 31 years old.

Onslow County sheriff’s deputies found his body surrounded by 24 empty Bud Light cans.

Doug Webb and other Marines cleaned Chris’s room before Mike arrived from Fort Campbell. They doused his blood-soaked mattress in gasoline out back and set it on fire. Then they shot it.

Mike alone
Mike and his parents waited on the tarmac in Dallas to meet Chris’s casket, which arrived draped in stars and stripes. A Marine friend stepped off the plane and told Tim and Kathy, “I brought Chris home to you.”

Mike rode with Chris’s body to the funeral home. He looked into the casket and saw that there would be no viewing. “It doesn’t even look like him,” he told his father.

Chris’s funeral was held on June 18, 2012. During the eulogy, Mike said, “Not all combat wounds are physical nor do they end the casualty’s life immediately. Chris’s wounds ended his on that night last weekend.”

The Goski family buried Chris at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Afterward, family and friends went to Pappas Bar-B-Q for dinner, and the owners tore up the bill. That night, Mike told his aunt he was under surveillance by men in a white van parked across the street. “You better get a gun and protect yourself,” he said.

Mike returned to Fort Campbell to a glowing evaluation and a bronze star. Sgt. First Class Goski “is a leader of character who places the mission, his Soldiers and his teammates before himself,” his commander from Afghanistan wrote.

Yet Mike had struggled at home in the months before his brother’s death. Bills went unpaid. Dirty clothes and loose pills littered the floor. Routine problems of civilian life set him off. Arriving home after a frustrating visit to the department of motor vehicles for an expired car registration, he pulled out a gun. “I just want to f—ing kill people,” he told two visiting aunts.

Mike Goski and Doug Webb during the week of Chris's funeral.
Mike Goski and Doug Webb during the week of Chris's funeral.

“You are all like cartoon characters to us,” Mike told civilian friends. “You’re not even in the real world. You have no idea.”

His wife had moved away with the twins, and Mike had a hard time talking about anything but war. He was quick-tempered and fumed over Chris’s death. He believed the Marines had killed his brother through negligence.

“He was showing the red flags,” Mike said, “…they elected to not help him.”

In December, Chris’s commander, Col. Jeffrey Fultz, and a sergeant major visited Mike’s house in Clarksville, Tenn., to hand-deliver the findings of a Marine Corps investigation. The report said Chris had mixed alcohol and antianxiety drugs despite repeated warnings and determined that the Marine Corps wasn’t responsible for his death.

“No one who had association with him—from his friends, health-care providers, or chain of command—could have predicted nor fully understood the risk that Staff Sergeant Goski was taking by mixing the two,” Col. Fultz wrote in a Nov. 27, 2012, memo on the case.

“This is unacceptable,” Mike told them. “He was your responsibility.” Then Mike took a menacing step toward the senior Marines. “Get the f— out of my house,” he said.

Mike’s commander ordered him to undergo a mental-health evaluation in January 2013, citing a menu of issues: “Dealing with grief; Danger to self & others; Anger management; Ability to perform; coping skills.”

For months, Mike was treated by a military physician assistant, who noted Mike’s history of knee and back pain; traumatic brain injury from exposure to explosions; and “adjustment disorder with anxiety.”

Mike Goski with his twin sons, Mike and Chris, in 2010.
Mike Goski with his twin sons, Mike and Chris, in 2010.

Friends and family thought Mike intentionally hid symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during medical appointments. He checked boxes on questionnaires that indicated he wasn’t depressed, and a military psychologist rated his suicide risk as low.

In October 2013, Mike left active duty. He lost his house to foreclosure, and returned to Texas to live with his parents. Over the next two and half years, he rarely left his room. He stacked body armor against his headboard, fearing gunshots through his bedroom wall. He thought people spied on his emails. He put duct tape over the cameras on computers. He had a loaded rifle within reach and a chair jammed under the doorknob.

He obsessed over combat footage on the internet and bought into conspiracy theories—the U.S. government funded Islamic State and was behind the 9/11 attacks. He listened to recordings of the World War I poetry of Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves.

When Mike did venture outside, he carried a snub-nosed revolver in his belt, hidden by a shirt. “If anybody knew what I wanted to do,” Mike told his father, “they’d lock me up.”

Mike sought escape through a mind-addling use of Dust-Off, cans of compressed air used to clear debris from computer keyboards. He inhaled blasts of the chemical vapors, which gave him hallucinations. At times, he would run from his room yelling, “Get the medic. I got guys down.”

High on the fumes, Mike would imagine Chris beckoning to him and saying, “I lost you. I’ve been looking for you.”

Mike enlisted in the Texas National Guard Special Forces unit, but officers were troubled by his behavior. In March 2015, his commanding officer ordered a mental-health evaluation. By the end of the year, Mike had transferred to the North Carolina National Guard.

In early 2016, Mike loaded his truck with weapons and began a meandering trip to North Carolina for drills. He stopped in New Jersey to see Uncle Bingo. One night he grabbed a can of his uncle’s computer-keyboard spray and inhaled. He drooled and seemed to stop breathing. His uncle shook him until he snapped out of it.

“We used to do this over in Afghanistan all the time,” Mike said. He inhaled more and lay so still his uncle thought he was dead. “You can’t do that here,” he told Mike when his nephew revived. Then Bingo hid the can.

On May 31, 2016, Kathy received notice of a certified letter waiting for her at the post office. It was about Chris. She read it before leaving the parking lot, sitting in the 14-year-old Chevy TrailBlazer he had given her.

“I’d like to take this moment to express my deepest sympathies for the loss of your son,” wrote Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III. “I know that words could never ease the pain of your loss, which is why I have made suicide prevention my priority as the commander of the United States Special Operations Command.”

Gen. Thomas asked Kathy and Tim to participate in a study of suicides among military special operators. He included the phone number of Donald Neff, a social worker in his command.

Kathy called Dr. Neff at once. “You really want to help?” she demanded. “How about you help my son that’s still alive?”

Dr. Neff promised he would. He contacted Larry Rivera, a care coordinator assigned to special-operations troops. The next day, Mr. Rivera called Tim and Kathy. Then he spoke with Mike for 90 minutes. They discussed treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa, Fla., which specializes in helping commandos.

Tim saw a rare smile on Kathy’s face. Mike returned to Tennessee hopeful but wary. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he told his mother.

Best man
On June 17, one of Mike’s closest Army friends—another Green Beret—invited him for a day at the rifle range on Fort Campbell. Mike had agreed to be the best man at the friend’s wedding the following month.

Mike, the friend, and the friend’s teenage nephew loaded an SUV with AR-15 rifles, pistols, ear plugs and paper targets shaped like head-and-torso silhouettes. They stopped at a Wal-Mart for drinks and snacks. Mike came to the register with a six-pack of Dust-Off. Back in the car, the friend got angry over Mike’s purchase.

They drove to a gas station, where the friend filled the tank. When he returned, he found Mike in the front seat sucking on a can of compressed air. “That’s what’s going to kill you, Mike,” the friend said, frustrated to tears. He was so upset he drove off with the gas-pump nozzle still in the tank.

As they approached Fort Campbell, Mike motioned toward his pistol and hinted that he might provoke a violent confrontation with the gate guards.

The friend pleaded with him. “Do you care about me?” the friend asked. “I keep you going, and you keep me going. Don’t do this to me.”

They swerved onto a side street while Mike regained his composure.

Kathy Goski holds the military identification tags that belonged to her twin sons.
Kathy Goski holds the military identification tags that belonged to her twin sons.

On July 2, Mike went to Nashville for the friend’s wedding. The ceremony included only the couple, a maid of honor and Mike, who seemed to have found his footing. He felt safe enough to leave his gun in the hotel room when the wedding party went out to celebrate.

The next day, Mike drove back to his apartment in Clarksville, Tenn. He stripped to his undershorts and T-shirt and settled onto a camouflaged poncho liner on the bare mattress. He put a Glock pistol next to his pillow.

Then Mike put the nozzle of a Dust-Off can in his mouth. Police found his body five days later.

When Mike’s casket arrived in Dallas, Tim and Kathy followed the same journey as they had with Chris—from the airport to the funeral home to the National Cemetery. They learned Mike had arranged permission to share his twin brother’s gravesite.

On July 18, 2016, the Goskis buried Mike’s casket atop of Chris’s, one brother’s name chiseled into the front of the grave marker, the other’s name chiseled into the back.

“That’s how they came into the world,” Tim said. “And that’s how they left.”

The shared grave and headstone of Mike and Chris Goski at the National Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. Chris Goski’s name is chiseled into the other side.
The shared grave and headstone of Mike and Chris Goski at the National Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. Chris Goski’s name is chiseled into the other side.

—Paul Overberg contributed to this article.

Write to Michael M. Phillips at

The description of Mike Goski’s viewing of his brother’s body comes from interviews with Ken Goski, Tim Goski and Alexis Elliott.

The assessment of Chris Goski’s skill controlling air and artillery strikes comes from interviews with Doug Webb, Matt Deibel and a special-operations Marine who served with Chris in combat.

The account of Chris’s funeral, including Mike’s eulogy, comes from video of the event, as well as interviews with Jimnahs Miller and Doug Webb.

A number of photos used were sent by the twins to their family or found on Mike and Chris Goski’s phone and computer by friends in the Special Forces.

Photographs: Goski family (2); unnamed Special Operations friend (2); Mike Goski via Tim Goski; Laura Buckman for The Wall Street Journal

‘Little destructors’
Kathy and Tim Goski described how the twins switched places in school.

Kathy and Tim Goski described their fathers’ intersection during World War II.

The description of the boys’ mischievous childhood and subsequent delinquency comes from Jenny Jones, Brandi Kinsala Bonner, Clint Hawthorne, Tim Goski and Kathy Goski.

Tim Goski discussed his own previous issues with alcohol.

Clint Hawthorne described how Mike and Chris acquired alcohol in Dallas.

Brandi Kinsala Bonner described the hide-outs the twins used to smoke marijuana.

Tim Goski described the boys’ turn to drug dealing.

Details of Chris Goski’s run-in with the police over his drug use, and his sabotage of police cruisers, come from Kathy Goski.

Clint Hawthorne and Brandi Kinsala Bonner described the usual pattern when Chris and Mike got into fights in Red Oak. Kathy Goski recalled Mike’s thoughts when Chris started an altercation.

Clint Hawthorne described Chris’s history of shoplifting.

Tim and Kathy Goski described their child rearing approaches and the results of their decision to move to Irving.

​The anecdote about Chris ripping off another drug dealer and the family fearing for his safety comes from Tim Goski.​

The account of Mike’s attempt to leap from a moving car comes from Tim Goski.

Kathy, Tim and Ken Goski described the effects of the antipsychotic medication on Mike.

One of Mike’s close Special Forces friends recounted the PCP incident. Tim Goski confirmed that both boys had access to pistols at the time.

Tim and Kathy Goski described Chris’s experience in drug rehab on Sept. 11, as well as the twins’ visit to the recruiters and Mike’s effort to lose weight.

Photo caption: Chris and Mike Goski as kids.

Photographs: Goski family (5)

Mike’s mission
Kathy Goski recounted Mike’s visit to Camp Lejeune based on Mike’s description.

Jeremiah Papich, formerly of the 10th Mountain Division, described Mike’s desire to join an elite unit.

Evidence of Mike’s Delta Force tryout comes from his military records.

Mike’s close Special Forces friend described Mike’s experiences at the selection course. Mike’s military records specify his training as a Special Forces engineer.

Alexis Elliott described Mike’s reaction to the revelation that they were having twins. She also recalled her pregnancy and the dissolution of their marriage.

Photo caption: Mike Goski as a Private First Class.

Photographs: Chris Goski via the Goski family; Mike Goski via Tim Goski (2); Mike Goski files via an unnamed Special Forces friend; Goski family

Death’s door
Former Marine Matt Odom described the events in Ramadi.

Tim and Kathy Goski recounted the panic attack at Bennigan’s.

Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Sinclair and former Marine James Farber recounted the incident with the dogs, including the explosion and the officer’s reaction.

Tim Goski and several of Chris’s friends described Chris’s feelings about his relationship with his daughter’s mother. The mother declined to be interviewed for this article.

Chris’s military records detail his entry into special operations.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Doug Webb recalled Mike’s gift of the pistol to Chris, as well as both Chris’s skill as a combat controller and his disheveled state at home.

Doug Webb described the stress of Chris’s life in Afghanistan. He and other Marines provided details of Dave Day’s death.

Details of the mission in which Bill Woitowicz died come from another member of Chris’s Marine special operations unit. He and Doug Webb described Chris’s sense of guilt.

Typos are as written in Chris’s original emails.

Doug Webb recalled Chris’s bumper sticker.

Doug Webb and Chris’s special-operations teammate described the armaments in Chris’s apartment.

Paul Goski recounted the incidents in New Jersey with Chris and the judge’s decision.

Chris’s condition while switching planes in Atlanta was told by Kathy Goski.

Tim Goski recalled his kitchen-table conversation with Chris, as well as his intoxicated condition.

Chris’s diagnosis comes from his mental-health evaluation, dated May 2, 2012. Chris’s vow not to commit suicide because of the impact on his brother comes from the counselor’s contemporaneous notes from his therapy sessions and from Marine Corps records.

Chris’s medical and Marine Corps records identify the pharmaceutical drugs he took.

Marine Corps records described why Chris was restricted to limited duty. Those records, and Chris’s medical records, list numerous cases of medical personnel warning Chris not to mix alcohol and his prescribed medications.

Details of Chris’s rising child-support payments come from Order dated Sept. 28, 2011, Superior Court of New Jersey, Union Vicinage—Family Division, and from Tim Goski.

Doug Webb described the incident at the suicide-prevention talk.

The scene of Chris’s suicide is described in a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report dated July 16, 2012, the Onslow County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Department Incident Report, and interviews with Tim Goski.

Chris’s special-operations teammate and Doug Webb described the cleanup after Chris’s suicide.

Photo caption: Chris Goski in Afghanistan in 2010 or 2011.

Photographs: Chris Goski via the Goski family (2); Mike Goski files via an unnamed Special Forces friend (2); Chris Goski via Becky Goski Fantuzzo; unnamed Special Operations friend

Mike alone
Chris’s special-operations teammate described his words to Tim and Kathy Goski on the tarmac.

Ken Goski and Tim Goski recalled Mike’s thoughts after viewing Chris’s body.

Mike’s eulogy comes from video recordings of the ceremony.

Tim Goski recalled the tearing up of the bill at the restaurant.

Karen Vitale recounted Mike’s paranoid comments after the funeral.

Mike’s noncommissioned officer evaluation report, dated Oct. 29, 2012, and his DD-124 discharge papers detail his awards and evaluations. His commander’s comments are included in a June 23, 2014, letter from Capt. Sean M. Patton.

Karen Vitale recalled Mike’s struggles after his return from Afghanistan and before his brother’s death.

Jenny Jones and Brandi Kinsala Bonner recalled the cartoon comment. Alexis Elliott described his difficulty talking about anything other than war.

Tim Goski and Mike’s close Special Forces friend described his belief that the Marines were responsible for Chris’s death. That sentiment also appeared in Mike’s interview with the U.S. Marine Corps Inspector General’s office.

Mike’s comment about red flags came during his interview with the U.S. Marine Corps Inspector General’s office.

Col. Jeffrey Fultz and Mike’s close Special Forces friend described the visit to Clarksville.

The results of the Marine Corps investigation are contained in an investigative report dated July 31, 2012. Col. Fultz’s comment about mixing alcohol and antianxiety drugs came in a Nov. 27, 2012, memo.

Tim Goski and Mike’s close Special Forces friend recalled Mike’s comment about the Marine Corps’ findings being unacceptable. Those men, and Col. Fultz, confirmed that Mike ordered the Marines out of his house.

The Soldier’s Notification of Commanding Officer Referral for Mental Health Evaluation (Non-Emergency), dated Jan. 7, 2013, lists psychological issues that concerned Mike’s commanders.

Mike’s medical records from May 30, 2013, included the diagnosis of adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Mike indicated he wasn’t depressed in screening forms he completed before medical appointments on at least nine occasions in spring, 2013. The psychologist’s assessment that he wasn’t a serious suicide risk is contained in his records from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, dated May 22, 2013.

Brandi Kinsala Bonner and Tim and Kathy Goski described Mike’s paranoid behavior while living with his parents after leaving the active-duty Army. Tim Goski, Mark Sinclair and Doug Webb recalled Mike’s belief in conspiracy theories. Tim described Chris’s listening material.

Mike’s close Special Forces friend described the concealed revolver.

Tim and Kathy Goski recalled Mike’s hallucinations while inhaling Dust-Off in their house.

Records of Mike’s new mandatory mental-health evaluation are in the memorandum for Sgt. First Class Michael Goski from Major Thomas Nypaver, C Co., 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, dated March 30, 2015.

Matt Deibel and Paul Goski described Mike’s roadtrip.

Kathy Goski described her receipt of the letter from Gen. Tony Thomas. Gen. Thomas’s words are from his letter to Kathy, dated May 17, 2016.

Kathy Goski and Dr. Donald “Rob” Neff remembered her demand that the military help Mike.

Tim and Kathy Goski recalled the interaction with Larry Rivera. Mr. Rivera didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.

Photo caption: An honor guard carries Chris Goski’s casket across the tarmac in Dallas Fort Worth airport in 2012.

Photographs: unnamed Special Operations friend; Mike Goski via Tim Goski; Goski family; Laura Buckman for The Wall Street Journal (2)

Best man
Mike’s close Special Forces friend and his nephew described the incident en route to the Fort Campbell rifle range. The friend also described Mike’s behavior at the wedding.

Details from Mike’s death come from Clarksville Police Department crime-scene photos, the department’s Homicide Division Death Investigation; the Autopsy Report on Michael Goski by the Montgomery County (Tenn.) Medical Examiner, July 9, 2016; and Mike’s close Special Forces friend, who was on the scene with police.

Tim Goski recalled discovering that the VA had already agreed to Mike’s request to be buried with Chris.

Photo caption: Mike Goski as a best man at his friend’s wedding in Nashville, July 2, 2016, died two days later.

Photographs: unnamed Special Operations friend; Laura Buckman for The Wall Street Journal (2)
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Old 22 September 2017, 15:50
B 2/75's Avatar
B 2/75 B 2/75 is offline
Old Scroll
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Black Mountains
Posts: 10,814
Terrible tragedy for all involved.

We as a nation are more than ready to send our troops into harm's way five, ten, and more times. I know one guy who has been to either Afghanistan or Iraq 14 time.

But... our great nation then fails to actually help these guys out, in a meaningful manner. "Checking the block" and moving on. Next.

Rest in Peace, Warriors.

"To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee, for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee"
Melville / Captain Ahab
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Old 22 September 2017, 15:56
IronCross's Avatar
IronCross IronCross is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Dallas
Posts: 851
Words fail me.

Thank you for your sacrifices warriors.
Keep your mouth shut and listen. That is the best piece of advice I have been given.
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