-- Chris Cosgrove, the 23-year-old Cedar Knolls Marine killed in
action in Iraq on Sunday, had volunteered to man the east Fallujah
roadway checkpoint where a suicide car bomb was detonated.
The car drove up to the checkpoint with two suicide bombers
inside, according to published reports. The car exploded as it was
pulling up to an area where it was to be searched.
Cosgrove was killed. Two Iraqi Army soldiers also were killed in
the explosion, which injured Lance Cpl. Jason E. Mikolajcik of
According to Marines interviewed by the Hartford Courant,
Cosgrove made friends with local "regulars" who passed through the
"He would look for other things to do even after successfully
completing his normal assignments," said Gunnery Sgt. Courtney
Johnson of G Company of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines at Picatinny
Arsenal in Rockaway Township after communicating with Marines who
were with Cosgrove overseas.
"Iraqis wanted him to be a liaison of sorts for them in the
Cosgrove left behind many close friends, relatives and a fiancée,
Jessica Gurdemir of Staten Island. They were to be married in
August, relatives said.
Path to the Corps
Cosgrove enlisted in the Marines a year before he graduated from
Monmouth University in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in history and
an archeology minor. He knew exactly what he was doing.
"If he waited a year, he could have been put in the (Marines)
officer program," said Petra Ludwig, director of public affairs for
"It shows his personality."
He received word that he was being shipped to Iraq during the
spring of his graduation. He was a reservist with G Company of the
2nd Battalion, 25th Marines at Picatinny Arsenal. That unit had
participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and was not
scheduled to return, Johnson said.
But Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine
Division from Plainville, Conn., which was being deployed to Iraq,
needed more Marines.
"Their numbers were short,"said Johnson, who knew Cosgrove for
only a short time when they were in the same battalion.
"He graciously accepted his assignment without any complaint
because that's just the kind of guy he was."
In Iraq, Cosgrove developed a rapport with Iraqis. He would get
to know their customs, their language.
That was behavior expected from a history and anthropology
student, said Kathy Smith-Wenning, specialist professor of
anthropology at Monmouth University.
"That's the anthropology and history side. That's his love of
learning about other people and understanding of
"And the only way you can get along with other people is by
The kind things people were saying about Cosgrove in Iraq were
echoed in Cedar Knolls.
"People always say nice things about people when they pass away,
but in Cosgrove's case everything is true," Johnson said.
"He had talked about becoming a police officer," said Richard
Veit, one of Cosgrove's professors at Monmouth University.
"But he was very patriotic. He was very proud to be serving. I
think there was a practical side, but I think there was a deeper
patriotic side. It's just sad that it came to this."
It's not ironic that suicide bombers from that culture killed
Cosgrove. It's just sad, said Veit, also an anthropology professor.
"It's unbelievable to hear he lost his life in Iraq," Veit said.
"He was a good student. Funny in a positive sense. We're all
pretty appalled to hear that he died this way."
Out of more than 6,000 students at Monmouth University, Cosgrove
stood out to President Paul G. Gaffney II, a retired Navy vice
"I knew Chris from my first days at Monmouth," Gaffney told
students and staff members on Tuesday.
"He was always eager to talk about service to his country;
service as a Marine. There is a term for his enthusiasm to serve as
a Marine: Gung Ho. He knew the Marines were an elite fighting force,
and he was vitally interested in lifelong bonding that comes from
being a Marine.
"That has ended now. Chris is gone. His family will struggle with
his loss, and so will we. His family will need our support and
thoughts, even our prayers."
The university will fly a flag at half staff in honor of Cosgrove
for the rest of this week, Ludwig said.
Cosgrove was deeply committed to the military. He also had a deep
affinity for knowledge, his former educators said.
Before going to Iraq, he was stationed in Kuwait. After training
there for three months and days before he was to be shipped to Iraq,
Cosgrove sent an e-mail to his history, archeology and political
The e-mail sent in March had a friendly tone, was very
matter-of-fact, and had no indication of trepidation at what might
lie ahead. He tells professors how to get in touch with him and asks
them to give him their addresses so he can write letters. He even
offers to speak at the professors' classes when he returns.
"It may be of some interest to get my point of view for the poli
sci classes and even for the history classes of what is going on,"
Cosgrove wrote in his e-mail to professors.
"As of ! right now a lot is changing and we cannot go into the
city as they did a few years ago and shoot anything that moves."
The Marines were the best preparation for a law enforcement
career, Cosgrove had reasoned. But his decision to enlist came from
something much deeper, those who knew him said.
It may have been a family legacy in the armed services. It may
have been a deep-rooted sense of patriotism. It may have been the
Marine's character, which Cosgrove's stepfather called "the best."
The draw to the Marines started in high school, his stepfather,
Art Bowie of Cedar Knolls, said on Tuesday.
"He was looking to find a position in life," Bowie said. "We had
to talk him out of enlisting straight out of high school. We
convinced him to go to college first."
Cosgrove would have been the kind of police officer or
firefighter -- another career he considered -- that everyone in a
community would know, his friends and relatives said.
"Chris -- he just, just liked people," Art Bowie said. "He hit it
off well with people all the time. It was just the way he was."
Tradition of service
Many of his relatives have ties to public service. His stepfather
was in the Air Force. His father, Chris Cosgrove Jr. of New
Providence, retired as an officer in the Essex County Prosecutor's
His paternal grandfather was a police officer. An uncle, Thomas
Turrisi, is a police officer in Boonton. His maternal grandfather,
Charles A. Turrisi Sr., was a World War II pilot who was shot down
and held prisoner until the end of the war.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. Cosgrove's
survivors include his maternal grandmother, Dorothy Turisi; his
paternal grandmother, Margery Cosgrove; two brothers, Kevin and
Brian of New Providence, and several uncles, aunts and cousins.