Gold Star Family returns to Fort Riley to reconnect
Spc. Marquis Davis, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd HBCT, 1st Inf. Div., offers a comforting word to Hailee Cook, 8, following the Victory Park Ceremony June 13. Hailee’s dad, Spc. Mike Cook, was killed June 6, 2011, during a rocket attack on his base in Iraq.
Story by: Mollie Miller
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
As the night sky spread out like a blanket above them, Hailee and Mikey Cook gazed up at the stars in search of the biggest, brightest one.
When the 8-year-old and 3-year-old finally agreed upon their favorite, the siblings uttered the words they have been reciting nearly every night for more than a year.
"Good night, Daddy," the Gold Star children said. "We love you."
Hailee and Mikey's dad, Spc. Michael Cook, was killed June 6, 2011, during a rocket attack on his base in Iraq. Cook was one of five 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers to die during the attack.
In the year that has passed since her husband's death, Samantha Cook has done everything in her power to keep her Soldier's memory alive for their children. Photos of the man Samantha first met in the third grade are scattered throughout the house and Captain America, her husband's favorite cartoon character, can be found in nearly every Family picture and covering the walls and bed in Mikey's room. She and her children share memories of fun times like a foam sword fight at the Manhattan Target store and, although they have moved back to Ohio, they return to Fort Riley often to reconnect to their post and to the "Family" they still consider their own.
"Fort Riley was our post," Samantha said recently. "Being here brings back a lot of memories, a lot of good memories."
The Cook family returned to Fort Riley recently to help their division observe Victory Week and to celebrate their Soldier's memory during several ceremonies honoring the "Big Red One's" fallen and the Families they left behind.
"I feel like Mike is here with us," Samantha said.
Spc. Marquis Davis, 1st Bn., 7th Field Artillery Regt., met Mike at advanced individual training and has known Hailey, Mikey and Samantha since the Family got to Fort Riley two years ago. Davis, who served as the Cook's escort during their recent visit to Fort Riley, said the "First Lightning" team is always happy to welcome Samantha and the kids back to the Central Flint Hills Region.
"It is important to let them know that they are not forgotten, that we still remember Mike, and we all love to have them around," Davis said. "They are all still part of our Family."
Lt. Col. John Mountford, the new commander at the First Lightning battalion, welcomed the Cooks to a special luncheon and presentation June 13 following the unveiling of Cook's memorial stone in Victory Park. Mountford encouraged the young Family to return to Fort Riley as often as they wanted to reconnect with their "Family."
"You will always have a home with (1st Bn., 7th FA Regt.)," he said.
Although there are many stories Hailee could share about her brief time with her daddy, like how she used to beat him when they played Mario Brothers, the little girl said there is one very important thing everyone should remember when they think about Spc. Michael Cook or see his name etched on a stone in Victory Park.
"I want everyone to know that I loved my daddy very much," she said.