BILOXI, MS (WLOX-TV) - Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Henry Cook is a 40 year military veteran who nearly died when he was wounded in Vietnam. He is also a Hancock County attorney, who has donated thousands of hours of legal work to veterans over the years.
In fact, his work has been so important that three years ago, he was chosen to serve as the National Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Cook told WLOX News that he was honored when he was chosen to serve as the groups National Commander. He knew it would be a wonderful opportunity to help veterans all around the country.
But not very long after he took office, things began to change for the worse. It all started with a report that aired in 2008, on ABC'S Good Morning America, by chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. It found that The Military Order of the Purple Heart was not a very good steward of the millions of dollars donated every year to help Purple Heart veterans.
"Only 18 and a half cents on each dollar, goes to the combat wounded veterans that they advertise they are collecting money from," Cook said.
A charitable watchdog organization, called the American Institute of Philanthropy, gave the group a grade of F.
"I was outraged to learn these things, and then I began conducting my own investigation," Cook said.
The deeper he got into investigating the organization he was now the commander of, the more disturbed Colonel Cook became over what he found.
"People who get elected to office at a national level, very similar to a lot of our politicians, become corrupt when they get there," Cook said. "Too much opportunity, too much money and people begin to think that they are entitled."
The ABC report cited numerous occasions when the organization spent a large amount of money on events like a retirement party and tickets to an NFL football game. All things that had nothing to do with serving Purple Heart veterans.
Cook became so outraged that he decided to go to the leadership with his concerns.
"At the head of my request, was that they fire the executive director, and they literally laughed me out of the building, and that is when the campaign started against me," he said.
Cook maintains he has been defamed by the organization and called a liar. He recently asked to speak the groups national convention to clear the air.
"I was denied the right to even attend the convention," he said. "They did not want my side of the story to be told."
Cook said he is convinced that the wrongdoing that was going on, is still happening. But Henry Cook is a fighter, and he knows that this fight has just begun. He ended our interview by saying that he is convinced eventually the truth will prevail.
In an effort to get to that truth, and to restore the integrity of his reputation, he has filed a lawsuit against The Military Order of the Purple Heart.