World War II Veteran awarded Bronze Star, fourth Purple Heart
May 21, 2014
SCOTT AFB, Illinois, May. 21, 2014 -- World War II Veteran, former U.S. Army Technical Sergeant Donald L. Cook, was awarded the Bronze Star and a fourth Purple Heart for his actions in combat during the Battle of Luzon in a ceremony at his home in Lesterville, Missouri Sunday.
Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Richardson, commanding general of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, headquartered at Scott AFB, presided over the ceremony and awarded the medals to Cook.
"He served bravely and honorably, then came back and served his community," said Richardson, "You know that last line of our National Anthem, 'the home of the brave'? This is the home of the brave because of people like him."
Cook, now 89 years old, was drafted into the Army in 1943 at 19 years old, just months after graduating from Centerville High School in Missouri. After completing basic training at Camp Fanning in Texas, he was assigned to the 27th Infantry Division.
The division arrived at Lingayen Gulf, off the coast of the Philippine Island of Luzon, on Jan. 11, 1945 and was then involved in the longest battle in the Pacific Theater. The 27th, along with other divisions, fought for 165 days to take control of Luzon. During that time Cook, was wounded in combat four times.
Upon Cook's return from the war and discharge from the Army, he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
According to the citation, Cook was awarded the Silver Star Medal for "gallantry in action against the Japanese forces near Santa Fe, Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 30 May 1945. When a combat patrol, of which Technical Sergeant Cook was a member, was suddenly fired upon by a large force of enemy from three sides and a [battle buddy] wounded, with complete disregard for his own personal safely, he went to the side of the wounded man, [picked up his weapon]d up and began to fire at the approaching enemy. Then, noticing another wounded man, who lay in a position vulnerable to enemy penetration, he went to his assistance and the two of them managed to withstand the enemy force while the friendly platoon made a safe withdrawal behind them. Technical Sergeant Cook's gallant actions and devotion to duty enabled the platoon to withdraw with minimum casualties, reflecting great credit upon himself, the 25th Infantry and the Army of the United States."
It was recently discovered by Cook's family that he was missing a fourth Purple Heart and possibly other medals. With the assistance of a local U.S. Air Force colonel serving at Scott Air Force Base, Col. Steven Liddy, Cook's military records were updated and a ceremony scheduled to award him the medals he was due.
With Cook having been a Soldier, and with the awarding of a Bronze Star and Purple Heart being such a distinguished honor, Col. Liddy coordinated with the offices of the senior Army leadership at Scott AFB to ensure that an Army general officer conduct the awarding.
The Scott AFB Color Guard and the brass quintet, Airlifter, of the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America also participated in the official ceremony attended by Cook's family, friends and neighbors.
"I feel honored to be the one awarding these medals. I will be retiring in one month, after serving 34 years in the Army and I am so grateful to get the chance to award Mr. Cook with such distinguished medals for his service. You don't do this very often. It's extremely important," said Richardson.