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, 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
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.
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.