Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cody's Story

Here’s a compelling letter I got from a man who knew Cody Wanken. If you missed that post, have a look at it before you read this. Also read Jenny’s comment on her friendship with Cody.

Mr. Cockrell,

My name is Brian Sutter. I am writing you to say thank you for posting your touching words in your blog that you titled, "Stand Down, Marine." I just read it aloud to my girlfriend and struggled through it, fighting back tears. You see, I knew LCpl Cody Wanken very well.

I was there with Cody's family that cold, drizzly day on the tarmac at Des Moines International Airport. I am also a former United States Marine.
Cody was like a little brother to me. I met him 15 years ago when I began hanging around with his older brother, Andy. Over the years, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Cody and his family. Andy and I became best friends and I got to watch Cody excel in baseball and football in his youth.

Cody was 8 years old when I joined the Marine Corps and went off to boot camp in San Diego, CA. Even back then, all he wanted to be was a Marine. Years later, after I was discharged, he never wavered. Cody could have done anything with his life. He would have been great at anything, but it seems that being a Marine was his destiny, it was his dream.

I never worried about him surviving the rigorous training that is required to join the elite ranks of the U.S. Marine Corps. Cody was tough, confident and strong enough to take on the task. He is exactly what you want out of a Marine. He was also a natural leader, had a huge heart and just had a way with people. He always walked around with a huge smile on his face. He was that way his entire twenty years. Just thinking about him now brings a big smile to my face. He had that effect on everybody and obviously still does to this day.

Cody was very proud of being a Marine and we are all very proud of him. He understood the risks. He had no illusions. Cody was wounded in Iraq last September by an enemy round that did extreme damage to his jaw, ear and eye on his left side. He endured several surgeries and more pain than I can ever imagine, but still he never wavered. He would never allow all of us to see or know how much pain he was in. 

Whether it was talking to him on the phone or in person, he still had that fire and that big smile. He didn't want our pity. He was determined to recover and inspired all of us that knew him. He wanted to rejoin his unit. He wanted to continue serving his country. I had the honor of bringing him home from the airport after that first round of surgeries last fall. Andy and I got to be there when Cody and his father, Rick, came down the escalator near the baggage claim at Des Moines International Airport. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. He got to spend over a month with us here in Iowa while he was recovering. It was great to have him around again, and we thought the worst was behind us.

Cody Wanken died in his sleep on April 2, 2008. Andy had spoken to him the night before on the phone and he said it just sounded like the same old Cody. They laughed and joked around. They made plans for the future, they said their "I love you's" and said goodbye as usual. Words cannot describe what we all felt when we heard the news on the 2nd. I heard it from Andy and just started sobbing. It was and still is so unbelievable.

I had the honor of accompanying Rick, Sue and the rest of his family to the airport again. This time we brought him home for good. His pain is over and he no longer has to fight. He can rest easy now.

Thank you so much for writing those words in your blog. It means so much to us all to help put that day into words. Sometimes it takes someone on the outside looking in to describe something that well. I cannot describe what I felt that day; it is all just a series of images in my mind that I will never forget. You also took the time to pay tribute with your words to someone we all love and miss so much.

I don't know why I gave you all this information. I guess I thought you should know a little bit about LCpl Cody Wanken and what he meant to all of us. It's the least I can do since you took the time to share your thoughts with the world on your blog.

Thank you for honoring Cody.

Semper Fidelis,

Brian Sutter
1997 - 2001
April 13, 2008 8:35 PM

1 comment:

bradcockrell said...

Very honorable of you post Cody's story... hopefully it will be read by many.