Updated: July 19, 2011 at 12:00 am
Sara Cofield knew before she saw the two men in military uniform. Though three memebers of her family were in the military, only her older brother Mark was in Iraq.
“It just really hurt to breathe,” she recalled. “I hadn’t heard my mother cry like that in a long time.”
Sgt. Mark Cofield, 25, died Sunday from non-combat related injuries in Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.
“Mark was my rock,” Sara Cofield said. “He was my brother, he was my world. He raised me.” She has memories of the two spending Saturday mornings making breakfast and watching cartoons.
Mark Cofield was in the third grade when his family moved to Colorado Springs. He was creative and bright, eventually attending the International Baccalaureate program at Rampart High School. But his mother, Tari Cofield, said her son’s most prominent trait was his friendly nature.
“Mark never knew a stranger,” his mother said. “He loved joking. He loved having a good time.”
After graduating high school, he worked various jobs, deciding to join the Army after his older brother John H. Cofield came home from his first overseas tour. Their father, John A. Cofield, is an Army major.
Mark Cofield served for two and a half years, his brother said.
“He told me, ‘Why am I going to let them send someone I’d be better than,’” John H. Cofield recalled. “If he wanted to do something, you couldn’t stop him.”
When Mark Cofield joined the Army, his mother supported others through Blue Star Mothers of America, a group for mothers with children in the military. Now she is the one on the receiving end of the support.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Cofield home was filled with food and flowers, neighbors and friends. Neighbors were encouraging others to display flags in their front yard and turn on an exterior light for the rest of July in honor of Mark Cofield.
The Cofield family has received calls and messages from Iraq, Afghanistan and Arizona sent by people who knew Mark Cofield only a few months, but were touched by him.
Tari Cofield said while she was proud of her son for serving his country, it didn’t make his death any easier.
“We’re proud to do it,” she said dabbing her eyes with a tissue, “But it still hurts.”