Died January 27, 2004 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom
26, of Hay Springs, Neb.; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed Jan. 27 in an improvised explosive device attack near Iskandariyah, Iraq.
Cory Ryan Mracek was born on March 16, Chadron, NE. He attended school in Chadron, Bayard, Hemingford and Hay Springs, NE. He attended Hay Springs High School where he was active in football, basketball, and one year of track. He was the Senior Class Vice President. He went to Chadron State College one semester and then joined the National Guard. After basic training, he came home and decided he wanted to be in the Army fulltime. He agreed to go to Korea for one year so that he would get his choice of duty stations; it was his dream to join the 82nd Airborne. Then he found out that the paperwork was not right and he would not get to go to Fort Bragg, instead being sent to the 101st in Fort Campbell, KY where he was trained in air assault. While in Korea, he was chosen to be a United National Commander Honor Guard for six weeks in Seoul. Only the best soldiers from each unit were picked. He also had the honor of patrolling for a Four Star General, the Commander in Chief of the US and Korean forces. He came home after his four year tour and worked as a night stocker at Walmart.
One night shortly after September 11, we stood on our porch with our candles lit along with the rest of the nation and Cory said “Mom, don’t be mad at me but I have to go back in the Army, my country needs me. I am trained to fight and I want to go to Afghanistan.” It was very hard but I was so proud of him at that moment because he knew he would be putting his life in danger. He re-enlisted and went to Fort Sill, OK for training to be a Forward Observer. He graduated from school, again thinking he was getting sent to the 82nd Airborne. He was again sent to Korea for 15 months. He arrived back in the states in October 2003 and proceeded to Ft. Benning, GA where he attending training to be a paratrooper. He loved the thrill the first time he jumped from that plane. He graduated on November 5, 2003 and finally got to live his dream. He had to report to Fort Bragg on December 1, 2003 and learned he would be going to Iraq shortly after. He left for Iraq on January 17, 2004 arrived in Iraq on January 19 and was killed on January 27, 2004 eight days after arriving in country.
On July 7, 2004, the 82nd Airborne held a special day in Cory’s honor. He did not get to make his 6th jump, (which makes them officially a paratrooper), they all jumped in his honor and signed the jump log make him a paratrooper. Because Cory had persisted in achieving his dream and working so hard to get it, the 82nd honored him by naming him as a Distinguished Member of the 319th Field Artillery in November of 2005. There is a plaque hanging in his honor at Ft. Bragg.
While in the Army, Cory earned the Army Achievement Medal with three leaf clusters, Army Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Korean Defense Medal, Expert Badge M-16 rifle, Expert Badge Hand Grenade, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
In Korea, he ran the Manchu Mile three times. The Manchu Mile involves some tricky math: it equates to 25 standard miles, each marcher dressed in battle gear with helmet, backpack and gun. This is a volunteer march and only 85 percent of those that start the trek, finish it. When done they are rewarded with a belt buckle, he was very proud of his three buckles.
Cory loved God, his country and his family. He loved life and loved to laugh. He liked the adult cartoons such as Beavis and Butthead, Family Guy, South Park and the Simpsons. He could imitate quite a few of the characters in those shows. He saw he first Star Wars movie when he was four years old and was hooked. He loved the NE Cornhuskers, Denver Broncos, & Colorado Avalanche. He got to see the Avalanche play in North Carolina before they went to Iraq. He was so excited that he was the only one wearing an Avalanche jersey among the Carolina fans. He was proud to be an American and proud to serve his country.
He is survived by his parents, Jim and Pat, sisters Stacy and Heather.