Cook was given a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained while on patrol in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan.
“It’s one award I did not want to get – you have to get hurt,” Cook said after an awards ceremony at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon.
On Aug. 27, 2011, Cook was leading a patrol of Afghan National Police and American soldiers to investigate a suspected improvised explosive device.
After the search was cleared, an Afghan policeman following Cook stepped on a pressure-plate IED.
The explosion launched Cook forward 10 to 15 feet.
“It knocked me unconscious for a little bit,” Cook said. “Then I got up, realized I had my hands and feet and I’m still breathing.”
The Huntsville, Ala., man had experienced six IED blasts during a previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.
He was honored Friday for his valor and leadership completing the 2011 patrol. He gave aid to an injured Afghan soldier and led the group back to post, where he got medical attention for himself.
“In the military, one of the first things you are taught is to continue the mission,” he said. “You always keep fighting on.”
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration still in use and was first championed by Gen. George Washington. It’s reserved for soldiers “injured by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.”
After Col. Christopher Castle, the commander of Eisenhower, pinned the Purple Heart on Cook, family and service members lined up to shake the soldier’s hand.
“When he came to, he did what good sergeants do,” Castle said. “He got busy.”
Cook continued serving in Afghanistan until he sustained another injury. His
hand was slammed in the door of a patrol vehicle.
He has been treated in a traumatic brain injury clinic at Fort Gordon, correcting some memory loss. Cook had surgery on
his hand and regained full motion and strength.