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Army Command Sgt. Maj. Eric F. Cooke

Died December 24, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

43, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based in Ray Barracks, Friedberg, Germany; killed while in a vehicle that was struck by an improvised explosive device Dec. 24 in Baghdad.

When Eric Cooke was 17, police arrested him for possession of burglary tools. But by the time he reached his 40s, the military had turned him around. Besides earning two college degrees, Cooke reached one of the Army’s highest noncommissioned ranks — command sergeant major.

Cooke, 43, who grew up in the Phoenix area, was killed Dec. 24 after his convoy vehicle struck a homemade bomb. He was based in Friedberg, Germany, where he met his wife of 23 years, Dagmar. Cooke also served in the 1991 Gulf War, where he earned a Bronze Star.

“The U.S. Army did for that boy what I could not have done for him,” said his mother, Georgia Cooke, who lives near Molalla, Ore. “They turned him into a man and a man among men, and that is not a mother bragging.”

Other survivors include his father, Cord Cooke, of Mesa, Ariz.

— Associated Press

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