Sunday, September 09, 2007

Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth, 26, of Yonkers, N.Y.

SSgt Hollinsworth was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 9, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and grenades.

The Journal News -- YONKERS - When the doorbell rang Sunday evening, Hope Hollinsworth Coaxum figured it was her husband returning home for dinner.

Standing on the other side of the door, however, were two soldiers. Hollinsworth's thoughts turned immediately to her son, Army Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth, who was stationed in Iraq.

"In my head, I was thinking, 'Maybe they are going to tell me he was hurt, or in the hospital.' But I never, ever thought they were going to tell me he was dead," Hollinsworth Coaxum said yesterday in the living room of the family's home on Onondago Street in Yonkers.

The soldiers who sat in the same room Sunday night had few details: Hollinsworth was killed by a roadside bomb while riding in a truck on patrol in Baghdad early Sunday . No further information was available yesterday.

Hollinsworth served in Afghanistan in 2002, then participated in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 before returning for a second tour in February.

He loved life in the Army, his family said.

"This is what he always wanted to do," Antonio Coaxum said. "He loved to travel. And the people he met there in the Army - his buddies - they were a family."

Hollinsworth loved Army life so much that when he married this year, it was to a former soldier who understood the life.

His wife, Stephanie Errebo-Hollinsworth, who has a child by a previous marriage, lives in Kansas City.

The war in Iraq was clearly on Hollinsworth's mind when the family heard from him three weeks ago.

"He was down. He said a couple of guys in his unit were killed," his mother said.

"And he said that the insurgents had gotten stronger - that they had gotten a lot stronger than before - and there was more violence than the first time around."

Growing up in Yonkers - where he attended St. Mary's School, School 22 and then graduated from Saunders Trades and Technical High School - Hollinsworth's earliest ambitions were to be a soldier, a police officer or a firefighter, his parents recalled.

He fashioned a play rifle from a stick and a belt and built forts in his bedroom, his mother said.

But in other ways Hollinsworth seemed an unlikely warrior, the family members said. They described him as gentle and a curious soul who, when his mother got a cold, brewed up a concoction of lemon and orange juices and tea.

"He would say: 'Mom, this will make you feel so much better,'_" she said, "and as a mother I drank it, even through it wasn't the best-tasting thing."

He was a protective big brother to his younger sister Nicole, now 18, who recently went away to college in Delaware, the family said, and also had a passion for cooking.

"When he got older, he would go to the supermarket and get vegetables, fry them up and add his own little things to it," Hollinsworth said. "It was the most disgusting-looking thing, but it tasted so good."

Upon graduating from high school in 1997, the teen tried to enlist in the Army, but needed his parents' approval because he was not yet 18.

His parents attempted to discourage him, but he was persistent and they relented. Hollinsworth eventually re-enlisted. The Army transformed Hollinsworth, his parents recalled, from a teen whose love of food was quite evident to a fit and athletic young man.

Coaxum recalled taking his stepson for a one-mile jog to help get him in shape for basic training.

"We went running and he couldn't keep up. He kept ducking into stores along the way," Coaxum said. "But when he came home after the Army, I was running from him."

As the couple spoke about their son yesterday, they were visited by Hollinsworth Coaxum's sister, Joyce Corpas; her husband, Mark Corpas; and the soldier's grandmother, Audrey Hollinsworth, who all live in Yonkers. The Corpases were particularly close to Hollinsworth, often taking him on vacation trips to Florida and Puerto Rico.

The family members struggled with their feelings about the war in Iraq. To varying degrees, they questioned the purpose of the war. Audrey Hollinsworth was most adamantly opposed to the war.

"I'm always on the computer e-mailing senators about it - Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid," she said.

Hollinsworth Coaxum said she could not understand how the nation's focus changed from Afghanistan, as a response to the attacks of Sept. 11, to Iraq, where a threat posed by weapons of mass destruction never materialized.

"So many lives have been lost - not just U.S. lives but the lives of children over there. You get to the point where you don't want these guys to have died in vain," Hollinsworth Coaxum said. "No, I don't support the war, but I definitely support the soldiers. My prayers are with them."

Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth was killed in action on 9/9/07.

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