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Students from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Congressman Sam Farr and Col. David K. Chapman, commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, assist Col. Donald G. Cook’s daughter unveil his plaque during the Cook Hall dedication aboard Presidio of Monterey, Oct. 17, 2014. (Photo by Pfc. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Photo by Pfc. Medina Ayala-Lo

Honoring Col. Cook: Valiant service recognized with building dedication

20 Oct 2014 | Pfc. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

A calm wind blows. There’s chatter in the air as service members, dignitaries and family gather in front of Cook Hall. As the key note speaker addressed the crowd, the murmurs die down, signaling the start of the dedication ceremony in memory of Col. Donald G. Cook, Oct. 17, 2014.

“We’re recognizing Cook Hall today,” said Col. Paul W. Fellinger, garrison commander, Presidio of Monterey. “This building marks the completion of the last of the three general instruction buildings planned for the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Together it has added 205 additional classrooms to increase student capacity by 25 percent.”

Cook began his Marine Corps Career as a student studying Chinese at the DLIFLC and graduated top of his class in 1961. In 1964, Cook was on a temporary, 30-day observation tour in Vietnam, when he volunteered to go with the 4th Vietnamese Marines on a search and recovery mission for a downed American helicopter crew. While on the mission, they were surrounded and ambushed by Vietnamese combatants. Cook was wounded and taken prisoner, becoming the first Marine captured in Vietnam.

“Cook was a hardcore resistor to the Vietcong’s attempts to indoctrinate him and gain his cooperation,” said retired USMC Col. Donald L. Price. “A fellow prisoner of war summed up Cook’s hardcore resistance in one sentence by saying, ‘If Capt. Cook thought for a second that the Vietcong were using his feces for fertilizer, he would have stopped crapping.’” 

Of the learning institutes at DLIFLC, Cook Hall is home to the European and Latin-American language school. Students will learn French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Croatian, and Spanish. The unveiling of Cook Hall will provide 100 additional classrooms and increase the seating in each class by 100 students. It will benefit not only future linguists, but the Presidio of Monterey as a whole.

“Cook Hall has been one of the most environmentally friendly facilities, with both its sustainable energy and water programs,” Fellinger said. “If it were to ever rain in Monterey, the rain water that lands on Cook Hall would be collected and stored in an underground system that would be used for irrigation to flush toilets. It’s an $81-million construction project.” 

Throughout his ordeal, Cook assumed the role of senior American, making him susceptible to harsher punishment. He gave sick prisoners his medicine and nursed men back to health despite the fact that he himself suffered from malaria. On December 8, 1967, Cook succumbed to his illness and was buried in an unmarked jungle grave. For his actions, Cook was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the rank of Colonel.

“My father’s career in the Marine Corps began here in Monterey,” said Christopher Cook, Cook’s son. “It has come full circle. This building pays tribute to his memory in such a magnificent way.”

From his care of fellow POWs to his refusal to stray from the code of conduct, Cook embodied the ethos of the Corps. 

“It’s really a state-of-the-art learning facility,” Fellinger said. “It’s equipped with modern technology designed to allow the DLIFLC to continue to produce the world class linguists that it has been known to produce. I have no doubt that it will live up to Col. Cook’s standards of excellence.”
Cook’s awards include a purple heart, the combat action ribbon, the national defense service medal, the armed forces expeditionary medal, the Vietnam service medal and the Vietnam campaign medal.

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