Diamondhead veteran returns to Vietnam

By Jeff Lawson - bio | email

DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - Henry Cook always knew that one day, he would go back to Vietnam.

Colonel Cook is a retired Diamondhead attorney who served three tours of duty there during the war. He was a member of the Army's elite special forces. Cook was also wounded twice, and served in the bloody Tet Offensive.

"People often ask me, 'Have you been there before?' My response is to tell them, 'I never left.'"

Cook and fellow Diamondhead resident Jimmy Moore spent three months in Vietnam in April.

"I can summarize my trip by saying my service there was validated. It was worth it, our cause was just, but our methods and leadership were bad," Cook said.

What Cook and Moore saw in Vietnam, four decades after they left, both surprised and even shocked them.

"We arrived in Vietnam at one a.m.," Cook chuckled, "and they had American music from the 60s playing. In fact, it was Puff the Magic Dragon. That was the last thing we ever expected."

That was the funny part of the trip. The gratifying part came when they spoke to the Vietnamese.

"We would see these people, and they would realize we were Americans. They would kiss our hands and they would kneel down and thank us for our service, and they would ask us to their homes for dinner," Cook said.

Colonel Cook even managed to find a Vietnamese woman who worked as a secretary for the army's special forces when Cook first served in Vietnam, back in 1967.

"I found her in a small village," he told us. "She just went berserk when I drove up on a motorbike at her house."

Because the Viet Cong considered her an American sympathizer, after the war, she was imprisoned for years. The government executed her parents.

Cook plans on doing what he can to make sure the woman is able to come to America.

During his service in Vietnam, Colonel Cook saw many of his fellow Americans die. He said those brave men were never far from his mind.

"All I could do was say a silent prayer for them, and tell them, 'I am back,' and their sacrifice was not in vain," Cook said.

Cook told us he is ashamed of how the war ended, and feels that our country abandoned the people of South Vietnam.

However, he left the country last month feeling in his heart that the people appreciate the sacrifice of our soldiers so long ago.

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