- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

MARDELA SPRINGS, Md. More than 500 family members, friends and members of the military gathered in the tiny town of Mardela Springs yesterday to pay their respects to Marine Staff Sgt. Walter "Trae" Cohee III.
Sgt. Cohee, who grew up in this community of 360 on the Eastern Shore, was buried with full military honors after a funeral service at the Mardela Springs Fire Company.
Sgt. Cohee's mother, Jeanne Cohee, walked along the line of visitors to greet them, offering them as much support as they gave her. Some mourners were crying, but others were more upbeat as they remembered the young man voted "class clown" and known to be quick with pranks.
Fellow Marines talked about Sgt. Cohee before services began, remembering him as a dedicated Marine.
"We as Marines talk about honor, courage and commitment," said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Carpenter, who served in a helicopter squadron with Sgt. Cohee. "For Trae, you can go deeper. There was absolutely nothing bad you can say about him. He was a straight, hard-core Marine."
Seven days had passed since Sgt. Cohee's family received word that the 26-year-old was killed alongside another Marine in Afghanistan. Their helicopter crashed in mountainous terrain while on a resupply mission outside Kabul. Military officials said the cause of the crash appeared to be mechanical failure.
A large American flag hung on a wall above Sgt. Cohee's gray metal casket. All around were photographs of Sgt. Cohee taken throughout his life. A framed collection of his insignia and metals stood nearby.
A Marine flag hung inside the fire station, and a poster bearing Sgt. Cohee's photograph bore the words "In loving memory of Staff Sgt. Walter Trae Cohee III." It included the Marine motto, Semper Fi.
Sgt. Cohee was dressed in his Marine dress blues, and his white hat rested on his chest. A Marine honor guard stood by his side.
Outside the fire station, another oversized American flag hung from the booms of two local firetrucks. Sgt. Cohee volunteered at the Mardela Springs Fire Company the summer after his high school graduation, before he joined the Marines and began traveling the world.
After boot camp, Sgt. Cohee became bored working as a driver in a motor transport unit. He switched to helicopter avionics and quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a staff sergeant and crew chief.
He was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Pensacola, Fla.; San Diego; and Okinawa, Japan.
A photo of Sgt. Cohee and his father was one of many on display. It was taken aboard the USS Boxer in September, after the Marines invited parents along for a cruise. The two were together on the ship on September 11.
Before his casket was closed, his younger brother, Kris, snapped a sharp salute and cried in his mother's arms.
The framed collection of Sgt. Cohee's insignia and metals was placed with him in the casket, as was a photograph showing him smiling sheepishly while being kissed by his father during the cruise aboard the USS Boxer.
Before the funeral, Staff Sgts. Carpenter and Brad Brown joked about the photo.
"Those are teasing points in the Marine Corps, and Trae didn't like very many teasing points," Sgt. Carpenter said. "He liked to get them against the other guys."
"I'm so happy that his dad was able to come out there and see what Trae actually did," Sgt. Brown said. "His dad, the glow was just coming off of him."
Vanessa Gerritsen, whom Sgt. Cohee planned to marry after returning from overseas, recalled when he told her he was going to Afghanistan.
"I volunteered myself to go to Afghanistan. Are you mad?" she quoted him as saying.
"I have never been more proud of anyone in my life," she replied.
"He loved going to work," Miss Gerritsen said. "He loved flying more than anything. He told me, 'This is my life, deal with it.' "
The Rev. Mary Ann Farnell read from the Book of Romans and the Book of Psalms, telling mourners that Sgt. Cohee's spirit would live on.
"It has been people like Trae who have preserved our nation's freedom and its peace," she said.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend presented the state flag to Sgt. Cohee's family.
She said, "Sergeant Cohee died so that the terrible events of September 11 will never be repeated. … All that was good in this brave soldier makes his loss so much more unbearable."
After the service, 50 white doves were released under clear skies.
At the burial service in nearby East New Market, two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters the same model that Sgt. Cohee's crew operated appeared over the tree line in the east and flew overhead.
A rifle squad fired three volleys, the honor guard folded the flag from Sgt. Cohee's casket, and a Marine sergeant knelt as he presented it to his mother.

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