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Bridge dedicated to airman killed in Vietnam War

By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Frederick News-Post, Md. | Published: January 5, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Pastor James God remembers the night that his bunkmates Eddie Manis and Gary Cosgrave were killed.

God, now 72, served in the Vietnam War with Manis and Cosgrave. On May 12, 1967, the three of them were eating breakfast at midnight – in Vietnam, they worked during the night when it was cooler. It was a somber morning as the airmen had gotten news that their base would be attacked by the North Vietnamese, God said.

The boys decided to try to make it to the other side of camp. They were offered a ride to the middle of camp. Manis and Cosgrave took the offer. God said he waited for a ride that would take him the whole way.

It was the last time he saw Manis or Cosgrave.

Cosgrave was 19. Manis had turned 20 the day before.

Pastor God told the story to members of the Cosgrave family and the Woodsboro American Legion Post 282 at a bridge dedication Friday afternoon. The Md. 144/I-70 East bridge in Frederick, near the Jug Bridge Monument, is now dedicated in memory of Cosgrave.

It's fitting, sister Susan Bruchey-Hamalainen said, because the Cosgrave family lived on East Patrick Street, and she and Cosgrave used to sell snowballs near the bridge.

Bruchey-Hamalainen was a senior in high school when her brother was killed. He had less than a month to go before he was to come home. The night of the attack, her parents saw on the news that the base had been bombed. The next day, military officials in blue uniforms arrived at the door.

The bridge dedication was the first time that Bruchey-Hamalainen had heard more about the night of her brother's death.

"That was hard," she said. "Maybe it was the right time."

Bruchey-Hamalainen applied for the bridge dedication, contacting Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. She said Jenkins helped expedite the process so that her mother, Pauline Cosgrave, could attend.

Pauline Cosgrave said that it was a "wonderful thing" for the bridge to be dedicated to her son. It was hard for her to have to relive that day and to hear more about his death.

"It was terrible," she said. "Terrible for me as a mother."

She said Gary Cosgrave loved his family, something his sisters repeated.

"He was always happy. He always liked to tell stories," Pauline Cosgrave said.

Bruchey-Hamalainen said her brother was always a protector. He taught her how to drive. In his letters from Vietnam, he always told the siblings to take care of their mother and father.

"He was way past his years," she said.

He made the holidays special, sister Donna Cosgrave said.

It was through Donna Cosgrave that Pastor God came to speak at the dedication. He had visited Cosgrave's grave, and his son was able to track down the family. Pastor God and Donna Cosgrave connected through social media.

The two bonded, and God told Donna Cosgrave about her brother's death. She's been waiting for her family to meet him so that they could also hear it, she said.

It was hard to hear the story, and there was a point of it that made her angry, Donna Cosgrave said. What if her brother had waited with God?

For God, the decision to wait may have saved his life. He remembers hearing the mortar rocket start as he huddled in a bunker, knowing he had few ways to protect himself.

Then he heard the small-arms fire begin as the rockets stopped. At that moment, he said, he gave up. He didn't think he would survive.

When the attack was over, he gathered with other military members. One of them asked if someone knew Cosgrave or Manis. James God was the only one to raise his hand. He was told they had been killed.

They were only kids, he said. He had just lost his bunkmates. Returning home, he said he had trouble talking about Vietnam because there was such a strong anti-Vietnam War sentiment. Even now, he has trouble talking about his time there.

Now his bunkmate is being honored for his service. And God was able to meet Cosgrave's mother, sisters, brother and many other family members who were at the dedication.

Gary Cosgrave's family wishes they could have seen what he would have become had he come from the war. If he had survived one more month.

"That's what makes it bittersweet," Donna Cosgrave said.

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(c)2019 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)
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