Army Pvt. Nicholas S. Cook
Died March 07, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
19, of Hungry Horse, Mont.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Camp Ederle, Italy; died March 7 in Konar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.
(The following was taken from www.greatfallstribune.com) COLUMBIA FALLS — Residents from the small communities just outside the mountains of Glacier National Park buried one of their own Saturday, a young soldier from Hungry Horse killed by Afghan insurgents earlier this month.
Nicholas Cook is just 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.
“Motivated, excited, strong, quick, fast — everything that you’d expect in a good soldier, he had,” Sgt. Salvatore Giunta said Saturday 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 Saturday, 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.”