Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 12, 2014

Pfc. Josh Gray remembered as brilliant JCHS student

Soldier lost his life Monday at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan

PAINTSVILLE — Teachers and staff at Johnson Central High School remember Josh Gray as a brilliant student who scored a 34 on the ACT and had an outstanding life ahead of him.

Pfc. Joshua Gray, a 2011 graduate of JCHS, died Monday at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. His death is described as the result of a non-combat related incident under investigation. The 21-year-old was deployed in January and served as a satellite communications system operator maintainer.

“Josh was a very high-end student. He was an amazing kid,” said John Robinson, who was Gray’s information technology instructor and SkillsUSA adviser.

“He was very super smart. He was always looking something up. He always had this thirst for knowledge — computers, math, science and technology. He was always more than willing to do work. He often came to me with questions ... or answers,” Robinson said, recalling Gray’s fascination with the game “Minecraft” and his desire to learn the computer language needed to modify the game.

Gray’s fascination with computers resulted in the student finding a massive old IBM server he brought to school, Robinson recalled, adding the unit was so large and heavy it should have required two people to move it.

“He was carrying it around like it was nothing,” he said with a chuckle. “He left it here. I still have it.”

 In addition to his role on the academic team and SkillsUSA team, Gray was also voted prom king, and Most Unforgettable by his senior class. He was also known for his stuffed penguin, Mr. Waddles, a constant companion.

“He took Mr. Waddles everywhere with him,” said Tim Adams, district director of operations for Johnson County schools. “It started out as a joke, but then it just caught on. Mr. Waddles became part of the class.”

Adams said he knew Gray as a member of the high school’s academic team, and held him in highest esteem.

“Josh was an exceptionally bright young man. He just had that air about him that he attracted people to him,” he said, later adding he was not surprised to find out Gray had signed up for military service.

“He was a very giving young man,” he said, remembering Gray sometimes skipped academic team practice so he could volunteer to tutor a member of the school’s basketball team.

Angie Carriere taught Gray to play music while he was a young boy living in Floyd County.

“Josh was a student of mine when I taught music at Mountain Christian Academy in Martin. He was a bright and gifted student. He was in my violin/fiddle class. He never wanted to learn to read music, instead he insisted on playing his music ‘by ear.’ Actually, he never really needed the music, he could just listen to the song and play it,” she said.

“Gray will be remembered as a kind and loving friend and classmate by those who knew him and as a patriot and one who loved and served his country by those who may not have known him,” Carriere said. “Our prayers are with him, his family and his classmates.”

Teacher Amiee Cantrell-Webb said, “Josh was just a brilliant, well-loved guy. So sad.”

Funeral arrangements for Gray are incomplete.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Gray was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Pfc. Joshua A. Gray, 21, of Van Lear, Ky., died Feb. 10, in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation. He was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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