Friday, September 21, 2007

Courtney Hollinsworth laid to rest

North Broadway and a stately brownstone church on a corner there filled with people yesterday as the city remembered and celebrated the life of Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth.

The 26-year-old soldier was killed in Baghdad on Sept. 9, when the truck he was riding in came under attack from grenades and a roadside bomb.

Some of the recollections came from far away, from the soldiers who served alongside Hollinsworth.

Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., who came from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to represent the Army at the service, read tributes from Hollinsworth's fellow soldiers in the 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.

"He was tough, focused, compassionate, and we know he got those traits from his family," one said.

Later, the general presented the soldier's mother, Hope Hollinsworth Coaxum, and his wife, Stephanie Errebo-Hollinsworth, with his Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat.

Joyce Corpas, his aunt, told those who gathered in the church about a more personal side of Hollinsworth. She described a young man who loved to read, cook and eat and who would arrive at the home of his aunt and uncle just in time for a second dinner.

She told about the young man who when outfitted in catcher's gear could barely move, let alone catch a baseball, prompting his coach to suggest another position. The same young man surprised his family when he returned from Army basic training trim and muscular.

She also spoke of the caring young man who told his family to make sure that his 18-year-old sister, Nicole, finished college if something were to happen to him in Iraq.

Outside the church before the funeral, three young men who grew up with Hollinsworth stood together, painting their own portrait of the Yonkers native who enlisted in the Army in 1997 soon after graduating from Saunders Trades and Technical High School in Yonkers.

"He always wanted to go into the Army, ever since he was a kid," Weldon Jackson said.

"He was the type of person who wanted to do the right thing, who looked out for friends and family," Kirk Mitchell said.

"That's why he went into the Army, to serve his country," said Vincent Oliver, a cousin. "He was the kind of kid any mother would be proud to have as a son."

They recalled talking to Hollinsworth about his decision to re-enlist in the Army. His friends suggested that he had already served his country and that he could return to civilian life.

"But it's different when you are in there," said Mitchell, who served in the National Guard, describing the camaraderie and united purpose that life in the military offers.

"He felt obligated to his men," Oliver added.

Hollinsworth served in Afghanistan in 2002 and was part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He had begun a second tour in Iraq in February, shortly after he married Stephanie Errebo, who previously served in the Army.

During the service, Errebo-Hollinsworth offered a tearful prayer that she had written, "A Cavalry Wife's Prayer."

After the service, Caslen provided a few more details about the attack that killed Hollinsworth. Caslen said three others in the truck were injured - two other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter.

Among those who turned out at the service were several dozen blue-clad Yonkers Department of Public Works employees, colleagues of Hollinsworth's stepfather, Antonio Coaxum, a city sanitation worker who helped raise Courtney Hollinsworth since age 4.

"He always talked about his son and worried about him," said Billy Quinn, a co-worker of Coaxum's, before the funeral. "I'm sorry to see it come to this."

Hollinsworth was buried in Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.

Read the rest at the Journal News

Related Link:
Courtney Hollinsworth dies 'of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and grenades'