Four generations of the Cook family served in the U.S. Navy from World War I-era until present day. My father, Everett Ernest Cook, went to recruit training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. This is the training center where all four generations of Cook Navy vets trained.
My father served about two years active duty during the WWI-era before being released as the sole family provider of farm crop, timber and animals in support of the food and provision needs of the war. He and my mother, Lola, had six children: Betty, Eunice, Charles, Ernest, Gerald and me.
I served in the Navy from 1958-1979, leaving as a communication technician senior chief petty officer. I joined during peace time and served in London, where I met my wife, Cecelia "Rusty"; at Ft. Meade, Md.; in Morocco; in Newport, R.I.; at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; in Pensacola, Fla.; and in Melbourne, Australia. After retiring from the Navy, I took up schooling and became a teacher and a principal in the same school system I graduated from in Steelville, Mo.
Also in my generation, my brother Charles was a storekeeper 3rd class in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and was initiated as a "Blue Nose," having served in the Arctic Circle aboard ship. Ernest was drafted into the Army in the 1960s and served stateside at Ft. Hood, Texas. Gerald was drafted into the Marines and served in Vietnam. Ernest and Gerald went on to careers at McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing Aircraft Corp. My sisters' husbands Virgil and Dellis Hill (brothers) served in the Army after World War II.
My son Matthew Alan was born at the U.S. Naval Air Facility in Kenitra, Morocco. He enlisted in the Navy in 1982 and retired in 2002 as a chief aviation technician's mate. He served as a P-3 flight engineer during the Gulf War and in the Pacific. He married Sharon, a hometown girl from Steelville, Mo., and they had three children.
One of his sons, Jacob Ryan, is a cryptologist technician, 2nd class, in the Navy. He and his wife, Misty, live in Annapolis, Md., on the same street my wife and I lived on from 1961-1963. Misty is in the Army active Reserves.
Matthew's son Jeremiah plans to graduate from high school in May 2014 and to become a Sea-Bee after finishing training at the Great Lakes center, like his older brother, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa did.
A lot of nostalgia here, but I am proud of my family's legacy in the service of our country. I am proud also to place flags along Steelville's main streets and on the military markers at cemeteries, to salute Old Glory at the courthouse lawn where those fallen in great wars are named and to have stood with my school children and said the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart.
Thinking on these things in my family legacy puts me among the most blessed in all God's creation, and proud to be an American.
Photo cutline: Three generations of Naval service. From left to right: Matthew Cook, Jacob Cook and Arthur Cook