Town prepares Marine's funeral

Shore family recalls its pride in Cohee

January 22, 2002|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

MARDELA SPRINGS - Reeling from the news that Maryland's first casualty of the war in Afghanistan was one of their own, family and friends of Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III are planning a hero's funeral at the fire hall where he and his family have volunteered for years.

Yesterday, as the body of the 26-year-old Marine who was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash arrived at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, residents of his hometown patiently endured the glare of national attention.

Shivering against a wet wind, Cohee's 28-year-old brother, Kris, his uncle Alvin Powell and aunt Coralee Powell told of their pride in the young man they knew as "Trae," a seven-year Marine Corps veteran who had volunteered for combat.

"Trae was a totally dedicated Marine; he volunteered for this duty because he knew it was something that had to be done," said Alvin Powell, a Vietnam veteran who saw action as an Army infantryman for "11 months and 11 days" from 1968 to 1969.

Powell, standing across Main Street from the Cohee home, where the cars and pickup trucks of well-wishers crowded the back yard, said the Cohee family knew of Trae's resolve.

The family had been together, visiting the young Marine in Miramar, Calif., where his unit is based, when terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11.

Adding to the personal stake for the family is that the Powells' 24-year-old son, Stacy, followed his cousin into the corps five years ago. He is a helicopter technician stationed in Norfolk, Va.

"He has been put on 24-hour alert, but so far, his unit hasn't moved," Powell said. "We worry, but he was very sure of what he wanted to do."

Cohee was killed, along with 24-year-old Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan of Mendocino, Calif., when their helicopter crashed in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. Five other Marines were injured.

"Trae was the kind of guy who would do anything for you," said Kris Cohee, who recalled how they and their parents had served in the fire company. "I was only 18 months older, so we were very close. It's not going to be the same."

Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday, but family members agreed that the Mardela Springs Fire Company was the most appropriate place for a memorial service.

Following his brother, Cohee began volunteering as a teen-ager, continuing as an active member until enlisting in the Marines seven years ago.

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