Bringing home GySgt. Cook 73 years later


ARLINGTON, Va. — Under normal circumstances, a funeral is an extremely sad occasion. Yet the one which took place on Wednesday had within it a solemn sense of joy.

Gunnery Sergeant Sidney Asa Cook can rest easy at last, beside fellow Marines who gave their lives during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Nearly 74 years had passed since Sidney Asa Cook was killed during “Operation Galvanic” in World War II, and classified Missing in Action (MIA). He now remains at our nation’s most beautiful cemetery, positively identified and laid to rest among others who were recently brought home by the non-profit History Flight. Over 500 U. S. Marines were classified MIA after the roughly 76-hour hell came to an end. History Flight has made incredible progress in identifying these young heroes, and at last bring them home after so many years.

Wednesday presented a steady rain, casting an appropriate shade upon the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. This did not deter those who were determined to welcome him and see to it that he could finally “Rest in Peace.” It was a surreal honor to be present and preserve the memory of such a hallowed task. The dedication on the part of all involved is beyond comprehension, despite watching the proceedings of the day unfold first-hand. Countless volunteers, researchers, and analysts aid in the effort to recover our missing servicemen. Such dedication is driven by immense gratitude. Every single American is in debt to men like Gunnery Sergeant Cook. Their sacrifice preserved each of our futures and the lives we live today.

In attendance at the reburial were Gunnery Sgt. Cook’s two grand-nieces, as well as other extended family. One of the two traveled across the Atlantic to be present and pay respects. “Uncle Asa” — as they both called him — was 32 when he was killed at Tarawa, having served eight years since his enlistment in 1935. He never married, and all relations on his side of the family tree had also passed away by the time he was identified in January of this year.

During the second half of the 1930s, Cook saw service on several Marine Ship Detachments until being assigned to Company “E”, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (2nd Marine Division) in 1941. “E/2/8” — the way by which Marines refer to their Infantry units — was sent to assist in the later portion of the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942. After completing their duties on “The Canal,” Cook’s unit landed in the first wave at Tarawa (in the Gilbert Islands) on Nov. 20, 1943. It was there that he gave his life, likely not even making it to sands of Red Beach 3. The enemy fire was so intense that 2/8 would become the hardest-hit Battalion of the entire operation.

The horse-drawn caisson brought Cook’s remains to a portion of the cemetery where many of the MIAs of Tarawa are being buried together, just as they were on the island when the battle ended. An extremely profound point in the day came when two young Marines approached and rendered reverent salutes to his casket. As the service concluded, it was discussed that both Marines were currently serving in Cook’s same Company (E/2/8). They traveled all the way from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to pay their respects to a fallen brother-in-arms. A brother who preceded their own service by over seven decades. Attendees stood in awe at their fidelity to those who came before them.

Though unable to enlist personally, the author finds undeniable truth in the statement that the United States Marine Corps is truly a family. The generation or time period of service is inconsequential. They are bound by the title all earn in the same way, and by the oath they all take to defend this great country.

God bless Gunnery Sergeant Cook, and may all the Marines who died with him be found one day…that on that day there would be no more deceased from Tarawa who are labeled “Missing” or “Unidentified.” Those who strive for that goal epitomize the motto of the Corps, “Semper Fidelis”…”Always Faithful.”

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A detachment of the US Marine bandsmen played their branch hymn “The Halls of Montezuma” as well as “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” during the full military honors at Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s funeral.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_1-Cook-Top-Photo.jpgA detachment of the US Marine bandsmen played their branch hymn “The Halls of Montezuma” as well as “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” during the full military honors at Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s funeral. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

The team of Marine pall bearers stands ready to remove Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s casket from the caisson as the graveside service begins.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-1-Dean.jpgThe team of Marine pall bearers stands ready to remove Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s casket from the caisson as the graveside service begins. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

The procession makes its way through Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday for the services of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-2-Patrick.jpgThe procession makes its way through Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday for the services of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

Marines prepare to fold the flag from the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-3-Patrick.jpgMarines prepare to fold the flag from the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

The grave marker at Tarawa listed Cook as one of the Marines who was buried in the grave following the battle in 1943.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-4-Katie.jpgThe grave marker at Tarawa listed Cook as one of the Marines who was buried in the grave following the battle in 1943. Photo courtesy of History Flight

A cross was placed at each of the mass burial sites with a marker listing the names and the number of unknowns at each burial site.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-5-Katie.jpgA cross was placed at each of the mass burial sites with a marker listing the names and the number of unknowns at each burial site. Photo courtesy of History Flight

Brig. Gen. Bradford J. Gering shakes the hand of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s grand-niece after she was presented with his casket flag by the senior officer of the detachment.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-6-Dean.jpgBrig. Gen. Bradford J. Gering shakes the hand of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s grand-niece after she was presented with his casket flag by the senior officer of the detachment. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

Retired Marine Michael Ryba escorts one of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s grand-nieces to view the plot where he would soon be buried. Ryba now serves on Casualty Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.; as well as a Casualty Specialist at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-7-Dean.jpgRetired Marine Michael Ryba escorts one of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s grand-nieces to view the plot where he would soon be buried. Ryba now serves on Casualty Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.; as well as a Casualty Specialist at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

The Marine Corps Honor Guard which escorted Gunnery Sergeant Sidney Cook’s remains to the graveside on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-8-Dean.jpgThe Marine Corps Honor Guard which escorted Gunnery Sergeant Sidney Cook’s remains to the graveside on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

Marine pall bearers place the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook at the start of Wednesday’s service.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-9-Patrick.jpgMarine pall bearers place the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook at the start of Wednesday’s service. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

A small marker in Arlington National Cemetery notes the spot where Cook’s remains will now rest nearly 74 years after he was killed in battle.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-10-Patrick.jpgA small marker in Arlington National Cemetery notes the spot where Cook’s remains will now rest nearly 74 years after he was killed in battle. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

Marines carry the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-11-Patrick.jpgMarines carry the casket of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

The flag from Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook’s casket was presented by Brig. Gen. Bradford J. Gering to Cook’s grand-niece Dianna Seyfried Combs.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-12-Patrick.jpgThe flag from Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook’s casket was presented by Brig. Gen. Bradford J. Gering to Cook’s grand-niece Dianna Seyfried Combs. Photo by Patrick J. Hughes

Taps is sounded after a rifle detachment fired three volleys during the graveside portion of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s reburial.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-13-Dean.jpgTaps is sounded after a rifle detachment fired three volleys during the graveside portion of Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s reburial. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

U. S. Marine First Sergeant Charles Spencer and an unidentified Sergeant render salutes to Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s casket during transfer to the graveside. Both men currently serve in Cook’s unit, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-14-Dean.jpgU. S. Marine First Sergeant Charles Spencer and an unidentified Sergeant render salutes to Gunnery Sergeant Cook’s casket during transfer to the graveside. Both men currently serve in Cook’s unit, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Photo by Dean Laubach, History Flight volunteer

The Delta Honor Guard transfers the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook at the airport in Atlanta, Ga.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-15-Brian.jpgThe Delta Honor Guard transfers the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Brian McConnell Sr.

Gunnery Sgt. Jason Attema escorted the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook on the way to Arlington National Cemetery.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-16-Brian.jpgGunnery Sgt. Jason Attema escorted the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook on the way to Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Brian McConnell Sr.

Gunnery Sgt. Jason Attema salutes as the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook are transferred to the plane at the Atlanta airport.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-17-Brian.jpgGunnery Sgt. Jason Attema salutes as the remains of Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook are transferred to the plane at the Atlanta airport. Photo by Brian McConnell Sr.

Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/09/web1_Cook-Mug.jpgGunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook Photo courtesy of History Flight
Fallen Marine from Meigs laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

By Dean Laubach

Special to the Times-Sentinel

Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Asa Cook

Born — Feb. 18, 1911, Hemlock Grove, Ohio (Meigs County)

Enlisted — March 18, 1935-March 17, 1939

Reenlisted — March 18, 1939

Killed in Action — Nov. 20, 1943, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands

Dean Laubach is a college student who volunteers as a photographer and research assistant for History Flight.

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