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THE WAR IN IRAQ
Cohen was on patrol when he was shot by small arms fire from the enemy, Agnes Cohen said. He was taken to an emergency hospital in Iraq, where he died. She said details were sketchy and they hoped to learn more today.
Cohen, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is the 14th person from the Kaneohe Marine base killed in Iraq since the unit was sent there last month. He is the 41st person with Hawaii ties killed in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.
"We're kind of stunned by it. Michael was a very special guy," said his father, Dr. David Cohen, an orthopedic surgeon in the York, Pa., area.
"We haven't been able to come to grips with reality," he said. "We never thought it would happen to him. We always thought he would come back to us."
Agnes Cohen said her son joined the Marines for the challenge.
"He wanted to do something not many people could do. The Marines fit it for him. Not a lot of people can be Marines. Being able to thrive on your training, not just survive, but thrive on your training made him the person he wanted to be," she said.
George Jones, principal of Dallastown Area High School, where Cohen graduated in 2000, said he always liked a challenge.
In his senior year, Cohen took some of the tougher academic course like conceptual physics, sociology and psychology and thrived on the academic rigor.
"I remember him as plain as yesterday," he said. "We felt that we'd be hearing good things about Mike."
Cohen is the first student from the school to be killed in Iraq, but several former students are serving.
The school is in a suburban and rural area just outside York, Pa., and about 35 minutes from Baltimore.
Cohen is the third of four children in the family. Services have not yet been set because his body has not been returned to the United States.
Agnes Cohen said her son came to Hawaii last summer and wanted to stay.
He decided that when his enlistment was up he would go to school here to become a nurse or medical technician and have his younger sister join him so they could live and study together.
His parents visited him twice here. When they remarked how beautiful it was, Cohen told his parents, "When I first got here, I thought it was beautiful, too, until I had to walk all over it (during training).
"He said there were definitely people there that hated the service people, but there were people there that made him feel very welcome, too," Agnes Cohen recalled.
He decided to join the Marines in August 2001, Cohen's mother said. When the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, "it only strengthened his resolve to go."
"After 9/11 it was even more important to serve his country," she said.
When he learned he would be sent to Iraq, "he felt like it was something that was necessary to do and that it was his turn to go."
His mother said in phone calls and e-mails from Iraq, Cohen couldn't say where he was, but once the fighting started, it wasn't difficult to figure out that he was near Fallujah.
Agnes Cohen said her son was waiting to get out of the service before dating seriously. He told her it would be too hard on a girl to be involved with a Marine serving overseas.
"I think he would have been one of the world's best dads; he would have been one of the best husbands; and it's all gone because of hate," she said.
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