Monday, September 05, 2011

James W. Coker

Remember Our Heroes

The Department of Defense announced the death of a Department of the Navy civilian who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

James W. Coker, 59, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., was pronounced dead Sept. 5 in Kabul, Afghanistan, while on temporary assignment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Coker worked for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, Norfolk, Va.

The circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation.

In Afghanistan, a Western official who was briefed on the incident told The Associated Press that after the kidnapping, Coker's body was found in a cave in nearby hills. He was strangled with a belt, the official said, speaking anonymously to discuss matters of intelligence.

Coker, 59, was a civilian working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He reportedly was kidnapped from a power plant near Kabul and strangled, making him the third Pentagon civilian killed in 10 years of war and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Coker was a life-long area resident who worked as a civilian at the Charleston Air Force Base for about 20 years prior to his more recent postings. He also built houses in the Charleston area.

Carrie Coker-Hughes of Goose Creek said her father, James W. "Will" Coker, was a deeply religious man who loved his three children, five grandchildren and traveling the world.

"He raised three children on his own," she said. "He was a precious man who loved his family and God unconditionally."

Daughter, Carrie,
said they always talked about the good times and family business, not on the goings-on around him in Afghanistan.

"I knew it was a dangerous risk," she said. "That lifestyle over there is pretty tough." He'd been overseas for about three months but was expected to return home in about two weeks.

Carrie said her father was assigned to several bases while in Afghanistan, identifying those places as Camp Blackhorse and Camp Integrity, where the phone service was less consistent, she said.

She knew something was wrong when she didn't hear from him during the weekend, saying his habit had been to call her during her breaks from her job as a dental hygienist.

Outside of work, Coker became involved in overseas relief missions with local church groups, including to Africa. His daughter described him as a workaholic.

"Working in the yard and reading, or just working with his hands," Coker-Hughes said of his hobbies. "He was a hard worker. He just never stopped."

She believes her father's good deeds left him at peace, and called him her guardian angel. "He has gone to heaven," she said. "I have no doubt."

James Coker was laid to rest at Whispering Pines Memorial Gardens.
He is survived by his wife, Marli; children, James, Lisa and Carrie; siblings, Ben, Mack, Bill, Peggy, Betty Jo and Juanita.

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