My father, Richard E. Cook Sr., served in the United States Coast Guard just after the “Big One,” WWII.
He loved his country and instilled that love of country in his children. “Pops” joined William E. Blair Post 95 of the American Legion not long after it was chartered. There were some wonderful men who were members of the post, including Virgil Christa, Dave Citty, Newt Houts, Bob Price and Glen Patterson. The members of Post 95 loved the City of East Ridge and did wonderful things for the community, like stringing electric lights at the old baseball fields where Parkridge East is now located.
The post continues to do wonderful things for East Ridge.
On Monday, Post 95, in conjunction with the City of East Ridge and the Crestwood Garden Club, will host our annual Memorial Day Celebration near Pioneer Frontier playground. Commander Larry Palmer will emcee the event, where Congressman Chuck Fleishman is scheduled to speak. During the ceremony some Pioneer patriot will be recognized with the 3rd Annual Lester Norton Award for Patriotism.
When I was in my early teens, the Vietnam War raged. Young men from East Ridge made the ultimate sacrifice in that war that cut short more than 58,000 lives. One of those men was Pops’s fellow Legionnaires’ son, Samuel Larry James. For the longest, Larry was missing in action, having been shot down in a warplane on the other side of the world in Cambodia. Larry’s dad, Sam, and Pops, along with many others at Post 95, spearheaded a local effort to bring attention to the MIA cause.
In fact, an MIA flag, along with “Old Glory” and the Tennessee state flag, flies out in front of City Hall, waving above our own Vietnam Memorial.
We can all thank the Taylors, Elaine and Norman, for persistently badgering city leaders to erect a monument to honor East Ridge dead in the Vietnam war. After more than a decade of tirelessly promoting the Vietnam Memorial, the city dedicated it in a moving ceremony.
I lost my composure during that ceremony. All I could think of was the pain that my father’s friend Sam had to bear during the last 25 years of his life, having lost his only son in a horrible war. Of course, he wasn’t alone.
On Monday we honor all our men and women who laid down their lives.
The ceremony in East Ridge will begin at 1 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors.