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2 local soldiers die in Iraq - 1 on his last day

Two more local U.S. servicemen - one hoping to be home for Christmas, the other just hours away from the end of his tour of duty - were killed in Iraq on Sunday, military officials said yesterday.

They were identified as Army Sgt. Mario Nelson, 26, of Brooklyn, and Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Cosgrove, 23, of Cedar Knolls, N.J.

Nelson was killed when a rocketpropelled grenade exploded near his vehicle in Hit, a volatile Sunni population center in the Euphrates valley about 85 miles from Baghdad.

He was serving with the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Friedberg, Germany.

Gary Nelson, 23, said his brother, who came to the U.S. from Haiti at age 8, "was willing to give his life like he did" because he loved his adopted country and his family.

"He was a good man, a good friend and son, a good father and uncle, you name it," Gary Nelson said.

Sgt. Nelson's wife, Mecca, and daughter, Mia, 3, were at the Friedberg base last night but were expected to return to Canarsie by week's end.

Nelson joined the National Guard after graduating from George Westinghouse Vocational High School in downtown Brooklyn. While digging for remains at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, he decided to join the Army and enlisted in 2003.

Cosgrove, who left Monmouth University to enlist in the Marines, died at a Fallujah checkpoint. It was the last day of his seven-month stint on combat duty.

He was scheduled to return home this week.

Neighbors, citing an announcement in a local weekly publication, noted Cosgrove had planned to marry next August.

In a sad twist, Daily News columnist Michael Daly on Monday told the story of Staten Islander Elaine Brower and her nerve-racking days awaiting the return home of her son, Marine Sgt.James Brower.

Elaine Brower told of a fellow Marine, Cosgrove, laughing in the background as she spoke with her son on the phone. Then came an e-mail from Iraq telling her that a Marine in her son's unit had been killed while on final patrol Sunday.

It was Cosgrove.

Originally published on October 4, 2006

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