The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 7, 2011

VALLEY: The other side of a tragedy


The Journal-Register

MEDINA —  

In late June of 2010, I wrote a column about my friend, Dave Cook. Back then, Dave and his wife, Carol (and daughter, Chelsea) had been through a Hell-ish scare when a liaison with the U.S. Marine Corps had left a message about their son, Sgt. Trevor T. Cook. Trevor was serving in Afghanistan at the time.

They were eventually relieved of those anxious moments when the family received word that Trevor was safe. A year — to the week — after that column appeared, that scare turned to reality when Sgt. Trevor Cook was killed in a military exercise in California. He was in extensive training to return to Afghanistan when the tragedy struck.

I asked Dave if he’d feel comfortable contributing to this week’s column in an effort to let people know and hear his feelings about such a loss. And — being the champion that he is — he accepted. All that follows (and the title above this article) are the words of Sgt. Trevor Cook’s father and my good friend, Dave Cook.

•••

Many people suffer through tragic events in their lives. Some are stronger of will and in their beliefs than others and this enables them to move ahead at a better pace. Those who struggle often have less support from family and friends. And, even more importantly, they may lack a sense of faith. But until something terrible happens, it is hard to know how any of us will react.

It’s said that losing a child is the worst thing that can ever happen to a person. They’re right! From an early age, I’ve witnessed illnesses and deaths in my family — but absolutely nothing can compare to the heartbreaking loss and sense of helplessness our family felt upon losing our only son. A pain that will forever blend reality with nightmares.

People often say, “I can not imagine...”

My only answer is, “I hope you never do.”

As a family, we’ve tried to look at the glass as “half full.” How can we accept such a horrendous ordeal as anything positive? Because, together we lived with no regrets. We frequently said (and say) “I love you.” Good conversations were regular. There’s no “we should have” regrets.

Community support in the form of family, friends and even strangers offered comfort and strength in a myriad of ways. Kind words — either spoken, written or through the Internet — were uplifting and therapeutic. They showed us a bright side of humanity when we were hurting. They were there to lift our spirits and share our tears.

The hero’s welcome that greeted our son’s body down Main Street, Medina at 2 o’clock in the morning was magnificent. Trevor, like most of those in the service, never thought of himself as a hero. But what a sight! How beautiful to see a caring community embrace a giving soldier who paid the ultimate price and a family in need.

Military personnel and the Patriot Guard (motorcycle) Riders were present every step of the way throughout the wake and funeral. People unfamiliar with the Marines had the chance to see what special people they are. And having more than 600 people give the “Gunfighters” (Marines) a standing ovation at the funeral mass was enough to overwhelm even these young warriors beyond what they are trained for. They were humbled by the kindness bestowed upon them as they stood to bid farewell to their fellow brother-in-arms. Knowing that a grateful nation “has their backs” can do nothing less than lift their spirits when they, too, are deployed this fall.

In Trevor’s name: A scholarship fund has been started and will assist some college-bound Lyndonville (Trevor’s school) students; also, libraries, tree plantings and other causes will benefit — many for years to come.

Our son accomplished and gave more of himself in seven years of duty than most of us will in a lifetime.

There is always a bright side. We just need to open our eyes and see it.

Respectfully submitted from the Cook family.