Nicholas S. Cook –November 2010 Shipment Honoree
Montana soldier killed in Afghanistan
The Associated Press
HUNGRY HORSE, Mont. — The Department of Defense said March 10 a Montana soldier was killed in Afghanistan over the weekend when insurgents opened fire on his unit.
Defense officials said 19-year-old Pvt. Nicholas S. Cook of Hungry Horse was killed in Konar province on Sunday. His body arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 9.
Kathy Taylor said her grandson joined the Army in April and had been in Afghanistan for just over two months when he was killed. He was set to come home on leave in about two weeks.
She said the Army had not given her any more details about her grandson’s death, including whether any of Cook’s fellow soldiers were killed or injured in the attack.
“All I know is they were out on patrol,” said Taylor, who with her husband raised Cook since he was just 3 years old. “They had finished whatever they were doing and were coming back out of the area when they were ambushed.”
Cook, a 2008 graduate of Columbia Falls High School, loved excitement, whether it came from jumping out of airplanes, off of bridges or cliffs, or snowboarding in the Alps.
“He was quite a daredevil,” Taylor said. “He liked to hunt, skateboard, bike, ride dirt bikes and four-wheelers. And he lived and breathed snowboarding.”
In a posting on his MySpace page, Cook jokingly listed his hometown as “Afghanistan, Montana,” and wrote that “not many people can say they are as stoked about life in general and what they are doing right now.”
“I sure as hell can,” he continued. “I’m doing more now and have seen more already than I ever thought I would.”
Cook was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, out of Camp Ederle, Italy.
Soldier’s death brings war’s impact home to rural Mont. townBy Matt Volz
The Associated Press
COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. — Residents from the small communities just outside the mountains of Glacier National Park buried one of their own March 20, a young soldier from Hungry Horse killed by Afghan insurgents earlier this month.
Nicholas Cook is the eighth soldier from Montana to be killed in Afghanistan, and the Army private’s death has received a huge deal of attention across the state. About 300 people gathered for the funeral in Columbia Falls — a nearby town big enough to have a church to fit all those who turned out — including Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sen. John Tester, D-Mont.
“Motivated, excited, strong, quick, fast — everything that you’d expect in a good soldier, he had,” Sgt. Salvatore Giunta said after the burial.
Giunta, a soldier with Cook’s company, escorted Cook’s body back to Montana. “It means a lot to see the amount of respect and outpouring from the community,” Giunta said.
Cook’s death comes at a hard time for this close-knit, private community. Unemployment is in the double digits across Flathead County. Columbia Falls’ biggest private employer, the Plum Creek lumber mill, has had to lay off dozens of workers due to the tough economy.
There aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids like Cook once they graduate. That’s partly why he joined the Army, said Kathy Taylor, his grandmother. Inspired by a favorite aunt, he became an Airborne soldier, she said.
“There were no jobs around here, but he loved to travel and he was an adventurer, Taylor said. “He liked jumping out of airplanes and he liked those long hikes and he liked what the Army meant.”
To the 900 residents of Hungry Horse, Cook is an example for other “Canyon Kids,” the nickname for the rough-around-the-edges children who live in the towns just outside of Glacier park.
“It’s been hard on them. But he died a hero, and that is one thing that lets them hold their heads up,” said Beverly Kahn, a teacher at the Columbia Falls Learning Center, where Cook finished his high school education in 2008. “To hear what Nick has done I hope will give them all that ability to see they can be better than what they appear to be labeled as.”
Cook was raised by grandparents Chuck and Kathy Taylor from a young age. He wrestled, played baseball and football, and raised goats that he’d show at the Flathead County Fair. He was a risk-taker who loved snowboarding, above everything else.
“He was a manic snowboarder. He lived to shred, that’s what he would tell you,” said Gary Menning, Cook’s 10th-grade English teacher, who kept a close relationship with Cook through high school.
His teachers said he was very friendly, honest, worked hard and was mature beyond his years. At times, though, he was a headstrong student.
“He was a tough kid. He had to learn things in life the hard way,” Kahn said. “You can get that attitude in life of, ‘Nobody’s going to tell me what to do.’ But the military tells you what to do. I think he figured that out. He had to learn that he didn’t know it all.”
Cook was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Camp Ederle, Italy. He found that Army life suited him, Taylor said, and he even found time to do some snowboarding in the Alps while on leave.
His squadron was sent to Afghanistan in December for a yearlong tour. He was based in Kunar province, in the northern part of the country, where the mountains reminded him of home, he told his grandmother.
Cook was on patrol March 7 when his unit came under attack, and he died from wounds received in the fight, according to the Department of Defense. Army National Guard spokesman Maj. Tim Crowe said the attack was still under investigation and no other details could be released.
At the graveside, a little girl wore large artificial flowers in her hair with the words written in the center, “My uncle is a United States Army soldier.” Veterans and firefighters ringed the site holding American flags. Cook’s family looked on as soldiers fired a 21-gun salute. Behind them, smoke from the lumber mill billowed.
Cook’s death has brought the war home to them, making it personal and bringing it closer than they ever wanted, Kahn said.
“He died a hero. People are alive because of him,” Kahn said. But, “I think Nick would get a kick out of people thinking that what he did was so incredible, when he just did what he needed to get done.”