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Marine gets help from his home front

Friends of the injured reservist fixed up his home with help from a roofer who doesn't even know him.

By MICHELLE JONES
Published August 22, 2005


[Times photo: Lance Aram Rothstein]
Pasco sheriff's Lt. Michael Schreck, front, and Cpl. Clint Miller work Saturday to roof Josh Cooley's home in Land O'Lakes. Cooley, who is a sheriff's deputy, was injured in Iraq and is recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. His friends have a whole list of projects they want to finish before he comes home.

LAND O'LAKES - They all wondered what they could do to help Josh Cooley. So they committed to a "labor of love."

Saturday, while the temperature hovered at 90 degrees, fellow workers and friends put a new roof on Cooley's doublewide trailer.

In early July, U.S. Marine Corps reservist Josh Cooley was injured in a detail while traveling through Iraq in an amphibious assault vehicle. He suffered a head injury from shrapnel. Now he is at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Lt. Michael Schreck of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, a longtime friend and co-worker of Cooley's, was one of the roofers.

"Josh is awake and alert, he knows what is going on, and he can move his extremities," Schreck said. "This has provided each of us here an opportunity to help Josh."

Cooley's wife said Aug. 12 that although he is not yet talking or walking, he is awake and responding, and that's a step in the right direction.

Cooley has worked for the Sheriff's Office as a deputy since 1998 and took a leave of absence in early 2004 to train for the Marine Corps Reserve. Before shipping out, he married Christina and became a father figure to her 3-year-old daughter. Christina Cooley, a Pasco sheriff's deputy, is in Maryland with her husband.

"Josh was injured twice before over there; he is the kind of man who will throw himself into danger," Schreck said. "If there is a riot, he's in the middle."

On July 30, the 28-year-old Marine made family history when he received a Purple Heart from President Bush at the medical center. His father, Ed Cooley, a Marine, received a Purple Heart in the mail, 14 years after the head injury he suffered in Vietnam.

The senior Cooley was bitter about the cool reception he got after returning from Vietnam.

But a meeting with the president helped heal those wounds as well.

After the pinning of the younger Cooley, the president read a letter Ed Cooley had written to the president telling him about his son and how grateful he was for him personally presenting the military decoration to his son.

"I'm sorry it was never said before, but thank you for serving our country," the president said. President Bush hugged the former Marine.

The roof is just one of the projects Cooley's friends hope to finish before the young Marine comes home.

"Plumbing needs to be done, paneling replaced and floors inside need to be repaired," Schreck said.

By 2 p.m. Saturday, a new roof adorned Cooley's home.

Daryl Schram, a roofer who didn't know Cooley, volunteered. Schram provided man power from his roofing company, paid for all the materials and had his men bring the equipment to the site.

"All it took was for Michael to ask," Schram said. "It will be a complete roof redo, with a new skylight."

Normally, the retail cost of replacing the 2,200-square-foot roof would run about $3,500.

Jesse Horn, 30, another longtime friend of Cooley's, said the project wouldn't have been possible without Daryl Schram.

Cpl. Clint Miller agreed.

"When we needed something, we thought of him," the 36-year-old Miller said.

Not all the workers were young men. Bill Joseph, 65 and retired from the Sheriff's Office, was there for moral support. He brought cold drinks for the workers.

"Cooley was a hell of a guy," Joseph said. "He's dedicated and a good cop."

A motorcycle rally is set for 8 a.m. Sunday at the Gulfcoast Harley-Davidson shop on State Road 54, east of U.S. 19. People can take the 96-mile ride for a $10 donation to the Cruisin' for Cooley fundraiser.

[Last modified August 22, 2005, 01:08:08]


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