View Full Version : Marines serve so little brother won't have to

08-25-05, 08:25 AM
Marines serve so little brother won't have to
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Grant Segall
Plain Dealer Reporter


-- The Cohen boys keep stepping up for their conflicted country. While telling each other not to.

"Why in the world did you?" big brother Aaron asked middle brother Ryan last week.

Aaron, 19, is a fine one to talk -- a Marine reservist with knees hobbled by kicking down doors in Iraq. His injuries may have saved his life, sending him home before attacks early this month killed 13 members of his already bloodied battalion, based in Brook Park.

But Ryan, 18, plunged even deeper. He joined the Marines, shipped out last Tuesday to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and figures to be in Iraq soon.

"With the way the war's going, I'm pretty sure they're going to need me," he said.

The two Marines agree on this much: Their little brother Jacob, 12, should never serve.

"He's not going to because me and Ryan are already doing it," Aaron declared.

"Ryan and I," chided their mother, Gloria.

Gloria admires her boys' courage, but prefers to see it up close. "I love them and I want them in my life forever."

Jacob says he's not sure about enlisting. He might just "stay home and protect my parents."

Like so many neighbors, the Cohens are torn about the drawn-out war, which has killed an estimated 26,000 civilians and at least 1,874 American troops, including 48 Marine reservists assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, based in Brook Park.

The mother blames Iraq's deposed Saddam Hussein for terrorism, though government and independent panels have found otherwise. The father, Bob, divorced and living in Sharon Township, wants "a graceful exit."

Ryan has mixed feelings. "It is good that we are helping in other countries, but we should take care of our country first," he said.

Aaron said he has to guard his views as a Marine. And some of the views he aired were conflicted.

He praised the war for "disarming Saddam from his draconian rule." But he faulted it for estranging allies. Aaron shipped home on July 4 and asked people at a German airport to steer him toward US Airways.

"They wouldn't even look at me," said Aaron. "They'd just point."

Whatever the war's merits, the boys in this comfortable, professional family believe in serving their nation.

"It gives something back to the country that has brought you up and given you a free education," said Aaron.

Aaron was training at Parris Island two years ago when his knees began to ache. He blames fierce drills like the "duck walk" -- running while squatting, a tactic seldom tried in combat.

"There's only one good reason they have you do anything in boot camp," said Aaron. "That's discipline."

After three weeks of treatment and light duty, Aaron recovered enough to finish camp. Then he began attending Ohio State University while serving weekends in Lima Company, a nearby infantry unit assigned to the reserve center in Brook Park.

This March, all five companies of the 3rd Battalion shipped to Iraq. Aaron, his squad's tallest member at 6 feet 2, kicked down doors during searches.

Some occupants welcomed the squad. Others shot at it. No members were wounded, but Aaron's knees grew sorer than before.

He was shipped to Kuwait in May for two surgeries and a little therapy. The knees still balked. So he went home for longer treatment.

"It's one thing to leave a bad situation," he said. "It's another thing knowing your brothers in arms are still there."

Some of the brothers killed this month were friends. Aaron had learned a little Spanish from one of them and had regularly awakened another for a turn on watch.

"These were the guys that were going to come back and take dates to the Marine Corps Ball," said Aaron. "They're not going to be there anymore."

Aaron is still spending many hours in therapy. His prognosis varies from doctor to doctor. He sees no chance of rejoining the battalion before its homecoming, scheduled for September.

Aaron is supposed to spend four more years on active reserve, then two on inactive. He said he may become a military lawyer or a politician.

"There's changes we need to make," he said.

Ryan signed on for four years rather than juggle military and civilian life like Aaron.

"I figured I'd just get in there, get it done, get it over with," Ryan said before shipping out. "I'm nervous, but I'm ready to go. I'm going to try to keep positive the whole way."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

gsegall@plaind.com, 216-999-4187