Lucedale Mourns Loss Of Sgt. Cooley

Bobby Kiser walked out of the George County Hospital still shocked over the news about Sgt. Sean Cooley. He felt, "Just disbelief. I mean, it just still seems unreal."

Kiser worked with Sgt. Cooley, back when Cooley was a nurse at George County Hospital.

"I hate that it had to happen to anybody," said Kaiser, referring to the Thursday explosion that killed the 35 year old sergeant. "For it to be him right off the bat, it shows he was taking charge, guarding his folks."

Cooley's unit arrived in the Iraqi region about a month ago. He became its first casualty.

"I think everybody has a sense of great loss, because of the fact that Sean's no longer with us," Lucedale Mayor Dayton Whites said.

When word spread that Sean Cooley died in Iraq, the mayor had his city lower its flags.

Dr. Whites first met Cooley when both men worked at the hospital. Because of that relationship, the sergeant asked Whites to pose for this picture. It was taken in September, at a going away party for the 150th.

"For somebody who is going to fight for our country and for our freedom and against terrorist to have kind of singled me out and said, 'Dr. Whites I want you to come have your picture made with me,' really, it really tickled me would be a better way to say it," he said.

Before the military confirmed Sgt. Cooley's death, people in downtown Lucedale heard rumors about who may have died, and how many people may have been with him. The rumors kept family members of the 150th on edge.

Lois Howell's son-in-law serves in Sgt. Cooley's unit. The family didn't hear from him until daybreak.

"He sent his wife an e-mail at six this morning," she said, relief very evident in her voice.

"He said, 'As far as physically, we're all right. Emotionally, we're not doing too good. And I don't know what I'm going to do without Sean.'"

In Iraq, Sean Cooley was their sergeant. He was their friend.

In Lucedale, the 35 year old was everybody's friend.

"Just an outgoing guy who took care of his folks," remembered Kaiser.

Cooley was the 21st Mississippian to die in combat since the war in Iraq started. He's survived by his wife Laura.