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  Home > Communities > Rockaway Township

10/31/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
JOHN BELL / DAILY RECORD
Marine Cpl. Cleveland Atwater, 30, of Garfield, holds his year-old daughter Ayanna during a welcome home ceremony for Iraq reservists at Picatinny Arsenal on Monday.

JOHN BELL / DAILY RECORD
Youngsters from the Picatinny Arsenal elementary school wave to a group of Marine reservists during their welcome home ceremony on Monday.

JOHN BELL / DAILY RECORD
Lance Cpl. Remi Wojdala, 22, of Denville, goes to hug his grandfather, Walter Walusinski, of Denville. Wojdala said he was happy that now he would have free time and can relax in fall temperatures -- as opposed to the 120-degree heat of Iraq.

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Picatinny reservists march home

Marine unit that lost Whippany H.S. grad back from Iraq

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ROCKAWAY TWP. -- A parade and welcome home ceremony were held Monday at Picatinny Arsenal for a Marine reserve unit which lost a young lance corporal just before leaving Iraq.

About three dozen reservists aboard two flatbed trucks were standing and waving to friends, family and other supporters gathered by the Marine barracks building at Picatinny.

Amid dozens of supportive posters lining the outside of the building, one stood out.

It read, "Welcome Home from the family of Lance Cpl. Chris Cosgrove."

Cosgrove, 23, of Cedar Knolls, died in Iraq on Oct. 1, just days before he was to return home with his fellow Marines. Cosgrove was one of 40 reservists from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines sent to Iraq seven months ago.

While several other reservists from the unit were injured in Iraq, Cosgrove was the only fatality.

The Marines were talking about ways to honor his memory on Monday, perhaps by helping with a scholarship fund.

"I knew him very well," said Cpl. Cleveland Atwater, 30, of Garfield.

Atwater said that he trained with Cosgrove, who was on a different assignment when he was killed.

Atwater said the tragedy was exacerbated by the timing, noting that Cosgrove was "so close to leaving" when he lost his life.

Monday's celebration came six days after the Marines returned home to Picatinny.

Taking it easy

Since then, the reservists had begun gradually getting reaccustomed to civilian life. Several were talking about going to their favorite restaurant and just taking it easy.

Lance Cpl. Remi Wojdala, 22, of Denville, said he was happy to have free time and to relax in fall temperatures -- as opposed to the 120-degree heat of Iraq.

Many of the family members who showed up Monday morning were making their second trip in a week to Picatinny, also having waited outside for their post-midnight return by bus.

"We're thankful that he's safe," Diane Revli, of Pompton Lakes, said of her son -- Cpl. Scott Isenhour, 25, of Lincoln Park.

She made him a favorite meal -- lasagna -- to celebrate his return last week.

"We're praying he doesn't get reactivated, and we'll pray for the group that's still there," Revli said as she waited for her son and other reservists at Monday's parade.

Bob Coletta, of Berkeley Heights, was looking for his son -- Lance Cpl. Michael Coletta, 23.

Cpl. Coletta was inspired to join the Marines by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his father said.

'In-your-face duty'

From Iraq, Coletta was in regular touch with his family about the challenges they were facing. One reservist was wounded in the leg; another was laid up by a foot infection.

"Seven months of in-your-face duty," his father said.

The experience was draining for his son but Bob Coletta said he had no regrets.

"You see death ... but at the same time, the Marines believe that they should be there," he said.

Atwater, a ShopRite store manager in Paramus, spoke of the challenges they had faced.

"It was anything you could expect or imagine," he said.

There were so many things to take in, he recalled. He had to protect fellow Marines and Iraqi civilians, while at the same time keeping an eye out for an elusive enemy.

"There was no peace out there at all," he said.

Atwater said the unit was proud of its efforts.

"There's definitely a tremendous amount of pride and respect for one another and knowing that we all did this together," he said.


Rob Jennings can be reached at (973) 428-6667 or robjennings@gannett.com.


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