Sgt. Gary Henry
Gary Henry was the epitome of a man in action, ever since his youth. A native of Middletown, Ind., Henry played baseball and soon made his own career decision after his debut in Little League.
It seemed that after a coach decided Henry was suited for right field, the youngster decided that he would not loiter in the outfield grass one season longer. He worked on his game and earned a post as catcher. Henry was now in on every play.
Henry was a 1992 graduate of Whiteland Community High School, where he also played football, played the drums and earned a spot in the varsity band.
“Gary was an adrenaline junkie,” said his wife, Gina. “He was in constant motion. He was funny, Whether it was playing the drums, listening to music, watching movies or playing with the kids, he was always doing something. He had every certification as a firefighter and since Sept. 11, 2001, it was his passion to return to the military.
Gary had entered military service at age 17, as his parents approved his application between his junior and senior year in high school. A cancerous mole was discovered on his back at age 22 and was removed. He was given a clean bill of health, Gina said, but it would take another seven years before he would gain clearance through mountains of paperwork to be approved to return to military service.
Henry was a perfectionist, and this was magnified by his earning expert status in a variety of rescue techniques along with heading the Ropes, CRT and Extrication Teams. He also loved diving and became a Master Diver for the Indianapolis Fire Department.
There are dates and times that are forever etched into Gina Henry’s memory.
On May 4, 1999, she met her future husband, Gary Michael Henry, as the two were passing at the entrance of a Speedway gas station in downtown Indianapolis. After exchanging numbers, Gary asked Gina out. He later arrived on his motorcycle and together they rode to dinner.
On Sept. 4, 1999, Gina proposed to Gary during a surprise trip to Florida. “I didn’t want to let him go,” said Gina.
On Feb. 12, 2000, Gina and Gary were wed in a small private ceremony at her parents’ home, and began their journey together.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks upon America, Gary joined the Indiana National Guard and became a sergeant.
When he wasn’t serving in the National Guard, the native of Middletown, Ind., wore another uniform as Indianapolis Fire Captain.
Henry was deployed to Iraq in May 2008, serving in the 38th Military Police Company of Danville, Ind., and 38th Infantry Division of the Indiana National Guard. Henry and his company mates were sent to Iraq to train and work with the Iraqi police.
On Aug. 4, 2008, Gary Henry, 34, while on a morning patrol in a Humvee, died southeast of Baghdad near Camp Al Rustimyah.
According to Gina, an insurgent used a cell phone to detonate a small missile on an overpass which struck the right passenger side of the lead vehicle in which Henry and two of his fellow soldiers were traveling.
The Humvee driver, 25-year-old John Blickenstaff of Twelve Mile, Ind., suffered severe leg injuries but has since been released from hospital care. Patrol gunner Jonathan Menke, 25, of Madison, Ind., died in the attack.
Gary is survived by his wife, Gina, daughter Ashtyn, 8, and two children by an earlier marriage, daughter Shelby, 15 and a son, Gavin, 11.
Six months after the tragic accident, the community that Gary Henry gave so much of himself returned its love to his family
“Captain Henry served the citizens of Indianapolis with pride and dignity, “said Indianapolis Fire Department Captain Gregg Harris. “He served and protected his country with honor.”
The Big Brothers and Big Sisters have lent their support to the Henry family, as did students at Jeremiah Gray Elementary School where Ashtyn had begun her first week of classes when her father passed away. The students had written Henry letters when he began his Iraqi tour.
The Patriot Riders of Indiana, proudly traveling in formation on their motorcycles had representatives gather for an honor guard outside Greenwood Christian Church on Aug. 15, 2008, as Henry made his final journey to Greenwood Cemetery.
Later, those same riders took part in a large fundraising event for the child of a fallen soldier.
At Henry’s funeral, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels presented Henry’s father, Gary Henry Sr., with a Bronze Star and to Gina the Purple Heart.
Holly Henry Neesen, Gary’s first wife, said it was her late ex-husband’s dream “to fight for his country.”
“Gary was a good, involved dad to his children, and very dedicated to both serving the fire department and the military.”
There are, as expected, both good and bad days as two grieving Indiana families deal with the loss of Gary Henry.
On those good days, the impact Gary Henry continues in many ways.
His son, Gavin, like his late father, has discovered his position of choice on the diamond is behind the plate as a catcher.
His daughter, Ashtyn, like her father, has become a musician and plays the drums that were purchased as a Christmas gift by the Indianapolis Fire Department.
“He was my husband, my friend, my lover and my soulmate,” said Gina of the inscription that is etched on Henry’s monument, along with a message from his children: “My Daddy is a Hero.”