Just because there won’t be traditional gatherings this Memorial Day to honor the men and women who have died in U.S. military service, doesn’t mean they won’t be honored.
Retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Michael Cook, of Rocky Mount, has fashioned a tribute to these heroes using a kneeling soldier model.
On Christmas in 2018, Cook received the wooden pieces depicting the kneeling soldier from his father in New York as a gift and said he realized he’d better do something with it. That something became a permanent display in his front yard on Callaway Road between Rocky Mount and Callaway.
“My dad’s very patriotic,” Cook said. “He made himself one, too.”
Cook made his gift the centerpiece of a display that features a flag pole flying the American flag and white rocks enclosed with a rectangle of bricks. He put the memorial up about a year ago and said it took two or three days to build, with a lot of the time needed for the concrete around the flag pole to dry.
“It’s just memories of my 20 years, a way to never forget those who went before,” Cook said. “Nothing I did compared to what they went through.”
He said he joined the Navy after high school because he didn’t feel ready or want to go to college. While in the service he took advantage of his educational benefits and earned a college degree in accounting.
Cook served in Navy aviation warfare, concluding his career in Washington state before moving to Franklin County in 2016. He still has ties with the military as he works in Roanoke with Veterans Administration mortgage loans.
“I enjoy my current job, knowing I’m still helping my country and those depending on it,” he said.
Another way Cook keeps in touch with veterans is through his involvement with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, which is an association of vets from all branches of the U.S. armed forces who ride motorcycles as hobby.
The CVMA’s mission is to support those who have defended their country and their freedoms.
He said that the CVMA recently joined forces with the American Legion for a drive by at the Veterans Administration’s Veterans Care Center in Roanoke. There were at least 50 motorcycles that rode by to honor the veterans at the center. He also mentioned that last year the CVMA handed out T-shirts and socks to the veterans. “We are vets helping vets,” he said.
Cook said he would encourage young people to join the service.
“If I never joined, I would not have had the chance to see the world and meet some great people,” he said.
Little is known about the significance of the kneeling soldier but Cook said he hopes people will think about those who have served this country when passing by his tribute and “not forget those who have gone before us.”