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‘Led a life of service,’ Remembering Navy Corpsman Cole Griego

Cole Griego
Cole Griego
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jul 07, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — The military family in Colorado Springs has lost a World War II hero. Cole Griego passed away on June 27, just three months before his 100th birthday. We spoke with his daughter, Renee Tabet about his life of service.

“I have this wonderful photo of him in his uniform,” Tabet said. “He led a life of service and was an amazing guy.”

Born and raised in Belen, New Mexico, Cole “Junior “ Griego was drafted into the United States Navy at the young age of 19.

Tabet said her father underwent a quick training process to become a corpsman.

“He went from there to San Diego. He did six months there training to be a paramedic, a corpsman. Then from there, he flew to Hawaii, where he did another six months of training. From that point on, they were off, and they weren't sure where they were going,” Tabet said.

Junior was sent to the island of Iwo Jima.

“He said the bullets were everywhere, they were flying all around us from the moment they landed onto shore,” Tabet said.

She said Junior was under constant enemy fire for 37 days.

“As a corpsman he did not have a gun. He did not have one. He was there to protect the soldiers to help the soldiers to do whatever he needed to do,” Tabet said.

Tabet said her father saved many lives serving as a Navy Corpsman.

“He said that he did not remember showering. He did not remember brushing his teeth. He was in foxholes,” Tabet said.

Tabet said her father told her soldiers needed three things.

“Either he could take care of them and patch them up and they would get back into the battle or they needed more hospital care. So he would move them back to the ship. So they would go back to the hospital that was on the ship. Or the third was they went to the morgue, and he had to make that split decision, like a triage. Every corpsman had to,” Tabet said.

She said her father never spoke about his time in the military until they participated in the Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

“It had to have been trauma, it had to have been seeing the battle, seeing his fellow soldier dying in the fields, seeing that it was up to him to help as much as he could. It just must have been something that was so ingrained into his mind and heart that he couldn't talk about it,” Tabet said.

She said the Honor Flight was an emotional experience for her. It was also a unique thing she shared with her dad; she will cherish the memories they made forever.

“The Honor Flight did a wonderful, wonderful picture of him. This was 2017 on our way to the Honor Flight in Washington,” Tabet said.

Tabet learned Junior was at the base of Mount Suribachi, helping the injured when he saw soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

“He was right below that base and so he saw it going up and when he said he saw it going up, he knew that the war was going to be over he knew it was going to be soon,” Tabet said. “So I've got his Navy picture from graduation and we just found we hadn't seen this one of all the Navy men, that was in San Diego.”

Tabet said Junior felt a lot of relief at that point.

“So then he comes back home, he goes back to Hawaii. Then they ship him back out to Japan, where they did occupational cleanup duty. So he remembers that he was there for about two weeks. He said, Japan was quite a mess and so they did a lot of cleanup there,” Tabet said.

Junior returned to Hawaii, San Diego, and then he was released.

“So it was really quick. It was really fast,” Tabet said.

After the service, Junior worked as a US postal worker for 30 years.

“Everybody loved him on his routes. Everyone loved him in our small town,” Tabet said. “You've never seen a 99-year-old 98, 97, You've never seen a happier man. You've never seen a more peaceful, calm non-complainer I've never experienced or seen anyone like him,” Tabet said.

Junior was a jokester and a singer according to Tabet. From his photos you can see his joyful smile.

“Just a wonderful guy. A wonderful guy. My mom was lucky. We were lucky to have in our lives,” Tabet said.

He will be interned at Pikes Peak National Cemetery with full military honors on Tuesday.

“I have never experienced or seen anyone like him,” Tabet said.

One of Tabet's goals was to give her father a flyover. She said she called the Pentagon, the Marines, the Navy and a number of other places to try to set one up. Since her father was not an admiral, they would not provide her family with one.

Tabet shares that nearly three hours after Junior passed away, her and her family watched as three jets in formation flew over the house.

“They came directly over our townhome, we all ran outside and I said Dad there is your flyover. We got you a flyover,” Tabet said. “

She said she didn't know who they were.

“It was so cool it was just spontaneous and amazing,” Tabet said.

Junior would have turned 100 years old in three months.

“He wanted to be with his loving daughter who had passed at age 30 and to be with my mom and all of his relatives for his 100th birthday so he's celebrating it with them,” Tabet said.

Cole "Junior" Griego will be missed.

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