Army Pfc. Jennifer L. Cole was hesitant when she got her orders to go to Iraq last spring. But once she got there, she was happy.
"All she could do was tell me how she loved it over there," said her mother, Candace Gholson of Napa, Calif. "She knew she was making a difference."
Cole, 34, died Aug. 2 of noncombat-related injuries in Baiji, north of Baghdad, according to the Defense Department.
Gholson said her daughter was accidentally shot by another soldier while the two were cleaning weapons. "It was an accidental shooting," she said. "However, they are continuing an investigation."
Cole, who lived in the Napa County community of American Canyon, enlisted last year after her mother sold the Vallejo, Calif., flower shop where Cole had worked for more than a decade.
"She thought this would be a good time to serve her country," her mother said. "It was a surprise to me."
Cole, a motor transport operator, was sent to Iraq in March. She found Iraqis welcoming, telling her family "they really appreciate what the Americans are doing over there," her mother said. "What we hear on the news is not necessarily true."
Cole was assigned to the 426th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Ky.
She was born in Vallejo and went to Vintage High School in Napa. She worked in the shipping department for UPS and then in her mother's flower shop, Candy's Florist and Gifts, where she was the manager and had an eye for floral design.
After her Army tour, Cole planned to return to Napa County and open a business to make floral arrangements for parties.
"She was a wonderful gal. Everybody loved her. I've gotten hundreds of cards," her mother said. "She always had a smile in her face."
Cole was buried in Tulocay Cemetery in Napa.
In addition to her mother, she is survived by brothers James and Jeffrey Cole.
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