Boone veteran reflects on D-Day
by Allison Haver
Friday, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, was such a time, as millions of people worldwide remembered those who fought and endured tremendous sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy, France.
For one local veteran, D-Day was a day that will never be forgotten.
Of the more than 16 million members of the United States Armed Forces who fought in World War II, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that only about 1 million are living today. Of that 1 million, the average age is in the early 90s.
Hugh Cook of Boone falls into those categories.
Cook, 93, is a World War II Army veteran who put his life on the line, more than once, for his comrades during 15 months in combat.
He was drafted into the Army on his 21st birthday on Oct. 1, 1942, and while, like many World War II veterans, he is hesitant to expound upon it, he remembers his time in the service more than 70 years ago.
"I was in combat from 1943 until the war ended -- and mostly on the front lines," Cook said.
Cook, who was in France at the time of the Normandy landings, also had close family members who experienced D-Day firsthand.
"My brother, Hayden Cook, was in Normandy, and I had five first cousins, who were all brothers, who were also in Normandy during D-Day," Cook said.
On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy.
Still the largest military amphibious landing in history, D-Day, the beginning of the liberation of France and Europe, is hailed as signaling the beginning of the end of the war. Allied casualties were about 12,000 that day, and 4,414 were confirmed dead.
Although decorated for his courage and victorious leadership in the 91st Infantry Division's Field Artillery, Cook does not talk much about his days overseas as a sergeant leading his men through four major battles.
After the war, Cook moved to Cleveland for three years before returning to Boone where he worked for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company for 17 years.
He later retired from the steam plant at Appalachian State University after 18 years.
Cook was 35 when he married Cleo Bolick, who is nearly 12 years his junior.
They have three children, Darrell and Dwight Cook and Linda Johnson, and four grandchildren.
Today, Cook attends Mount Vernon Baptist Church, where he has attended most of his life, and stays active by playing golf.