You see a lot of publicity around corporate and government efforts to help our military forces, but much of the real appreciation, support and gratitude for our service personnel comes from community grassroots efforts.
Rodney and Gretchen Cook of Godfrey began one such project that is making a real and genuine difference in the lives of local members of the armed forces.
Mission American Gratitude is an effort to use every resource available to welcome home honorably discharged area veterans. The Cooks schedule welcome-home events that include bands, speakers and as many members of the local community as can be assembled to make sure veterans feel appreciated and know they have the area’s support.
“We find out as much about the veterans as we can and make it as individual as possible,” Rodney Cook says. “We have local dignitaries come out to make presentations and try to give the returning veterans a real grand entrance.”
Cook says they try to make it as much of a surprise for the veterans as possible.
The effort was started by the Cooks after getting to know a service member at Camp Pendleton in California when their son was stationed there. They recently had their seventh welcome-home event since starting in 2012.
The next event will be for the Cooks’ own son, Cpl. Jordan Allen Cook, a returning member of the Marine Corps who has served in the military for four years with two tours in Afghanistan. The welcoming event will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, at North Middle School in Godfrey.
The mayor of Godfrey will be in attendance and the Marching 100 Alton High School band will play. The Smash Band from St. Louis also will perform for the audience after the event. Everyone interested in showing support for local veterans is invited to attend.
In October 2013, the Cooks started an offshoot project of Mission American Gratitude called Operation Let It Wave. Rodney Cook explains the goal of the operation is to make sure all veterans have American flags to fly at their homes.
Operation Let It Wave has placed more than 60 American flags so far.
“When we place a flag, we guarantee it,” Cook explains. “If the flag wears out, we replace it.”
Information about Mission American Gratitude and Operation Let It Wave can be found online at www.missionamericangratitude.com as well as on their Facebook page. Anyone with recommendations for either recognition should contact the Cooks by email at email@example.com or by phone at (618) 917-6234.
In addition to their son Jordan, the Cooks have two daughters, Hannah and Meghan.
Rodney Cook points out that funding and contributions are always welcome as they grow and expand the programs. Also, he encourages everyone to attend the welcome-home events — he notes the real impact of the programs is to show the community’s appreciation.
The service given to our country by military veterans cannot be overstated. Mission American Gratitude and Operation Let It Wave are activities organized locally that show real appreciation by our community for those returning home from military duty.