Remembering Fallen University of Florida Student
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
He was a contractor working in Iraq. His funeral has not been set yet, but almost a dozen people from North Central Florida are planning to go.
Although Cote lived in Gainesville for two semesters, he has not been easily forgotten. It may be tough to believe that such a brief time someone can make such a great impact. But for his fraternity brothers, a 22-year-old freshman and army veteran named Jon Cote did just that.
"When we found out that he had been taken, it hit you just like a train," says Sigma Phi Epsilon David Hankins.
November 16, 2006, is a he will never forget. His fraternity brother and close friend Jon Cote was kidnapped in Iraq. Cote had just called a week or two earlier to say he was coming back to the United States in December and wanted to move into the house for the spring semester.
"From the first moment you met him, you felt he was your best friend," says Hankins. "I can honestly say that he was probably one of, if not the most, popular well-liked people in our pledge class."
Hankins says Jon was someone he could always fall back on through the hard times of freshman year and pledging. Although usually it was the older brothers teaching the pledges, with this class, Cote was the teacher. The 22-year-old army veteran giving an education to 18, 19, and 20-year olds about enthusiasm and living life with passion.
"From then on, the approach we took and that we've tried to spread throughout campus and the community is whether you support the war or not, support the troops," says Matt Sloan, another fraternity brother. "Support the ones defending our freedom."
So the brothers of Sig Ep passed that on, putting together 47 8-foot tall ribbons to go in front of each Greek house on campus. Hankins says despite 18 months of hoping and praying but hearing next to nothing, there was no way to prepare for definitive news of his death.
"Those 6 guys, they got stuck in a terrible situation," says Hankins. "But if there was anyone on this planet that I would want to be stuck with, it would be him because I know he made it better for them."
Both Hankins and Sloan have talked with Jon's family and say they will be at the funeral no matter when it is with about eight other current brothers.
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