A Long Overdue Recognition

Donald Cook and family at the medal ceremony Colonel Steven Liddy, a Webster University student, helped professor Virginia Altrogge's father achieve recognition for his service

ST. LOUIS, July 2, 2014 – During advising appointments, faculty members meet with students to ensure they are on track with their educational plans and getting all of the help they need.  But sometimes, the opposite happens and students find a way to help their professors.

Virginia Altrogge, an associate professor in the School of Education at Webster University, met with Colonel Steven Liddy, a student pursuing an EdS in Educational Leadership, he noticed a photo of her father, Donald Cook, who had served in the Army Infantry in World War II.

“Steve asked if my father had received all of his medals,” said Altrogge. “He said a lot of World War II veterans did not get all of their medals and he asked if I’d mind if he looked into it.”

Cook had already received three Purple hearts and a Silver Star in the Battle of Luzon in 1945. Liddy believed that there were more honors that Cook had earned but had probably not received.

Donald Cook receiving medals“It was common for records to be incomplete when veterans came home in 1944-46,” said Liddy. “I saw the Combat Infantryman Badge in the photos on Dr. Altrogge’s wall and that keyed me into the type of unit which her father belonged.”

In a few weeks, Liddy had some paperwork that needed to be signed. He made a two-hour trip to Lesterville, Missouri so that Cook was able to sign some military  papers and move the medal process forward.

While the events of the war took place in the 1940s, the process of receiving the medals moved forward once Liddy became involved and finally, on Sunday, May 18, 2014, Donald Cook received his medals at a ceremony at his home in Lesterville, Missouri.

Army Major General Thomas Richardson, commanding general of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command presided over the event. Several other officers attended the event with Maj. Gen. Richardson along with the Scott Fair Band Color Guard and the brass quintet, Airlifter, of the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America.

At the ceremony, Cook was presented with a United States Congressional Record as well as a Missouri State Resolution recognizing his service to his country. He received a letter and a unit coin from the current commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment along with two certificates and a letter of appreciation from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. A United States flag was also presented. The flag had been flown over the U.S. Capitol on the 69th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.  Cooks records were completed by the presentation of The Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart with three oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Japan Clasp, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation, the Missouri Veterans World War II medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Honorable Discharge Lapel Button.

Altrogge said her father was overwhelmed by the event.

“He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe this was happening after all of these years,” she said. “His service in the army happened when he was 19 and 20-years old. For him to have been so young and won so many medals and awards is inspirational. He took risks to save his men and was wounded and that’s part of the reason he got the Silver Star. He was a courageous platoon leader.  He went first to saved his men. I am proud of my father’s leadership and service to our country.”

Altrogge said none of this would have happened without Liddy’s help.  Liddy researched her father’s army records, arranged the patriotic ceremony in her parent’s backyard and even brought his adult children to help – and never took any credit.

Cook's medals“My father was in the army and Steve took this on as a Colonel in the Air Force. He got an army general to present the medals. Colonel Liddy’s actions are altruistic. It shows his integrity, leadership ability, sense of patriotic duty and allegiance to a fellow soldier.”

Liddy said, “In our Educational Leadership classes, we are engrossed in the topics of ethics, values, fairness and integrity. We look out to the diversity of the world and embrace it. Diversity is not just color or culture, but can be as simple as the differences between brother and sister. In this case the diversity refers to that group of people Tom Brokaw named ‘The Greatest Generation.’ It was that generation that built this country to its greatness. How could one not exert every effort to ensure Mr. Donald L. Cook was properly recognized with the awards and decorations so well earned and deserved?”

Cook celebrates his 90th birthday on July 2.

All photos are courtesy of Clinton Volner Photography.