Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Clyde Cook II.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veteran Clyde Cook II in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Cook was born in Arkadelphia on October 8, 1943. His father was a World War II Army veteran and his mother raised Clyde and his three siblings while tending to the home. Growing up, he helped around the house and took part in raising a pig and chickens in their backyard.
In middle and high school, Cook excelled in athletics. As a runner, he won the state title in the half-mile event his junior and senior years at Little Rock Central High School. His success on the track earned him a scholarship to the University of Arkansas. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle and “…never did really recover from that.” He attended college for two years before deciding to join the workforce.
When asked what inspired him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, he said one of his friends, “got drafted and talked me into going with him…what are friends for? We both joined the reserves, but I got ‘gung-ho’ and went regular in boot camp.”
Cook completed boot camp at Paris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina. After infantry training, he shipped out to serve on a naval aircraft ship and ported out of Naples, Italy.
He was assigned to the USS Roosevelt where he, “kept my shoes shined, my brass shined, and scored high on all my tests we had so I was Captain’s orderly for a year.” That distinction earned him the right to go ashore anytime he wasn’t working and explore when the ship was at port. He remembers getting some interesting looks from other servicemembers because that wasn’t a normal privilege for the officers on deck.
It wasn’t long before he was assigned to Vietnam. He recalls being asked by his captain why he used abrasive to clean his M16 and saying, “Sir, when my life’s depending on it, I’ll do whatever I have to to clean my rifle.” His Captain never questioned him about it again, reaffirming for Cook that he had the respect of his commanding officer.
He also served as a platoon commander. Cook completed his military service with the rank of sergeant. “I had four years of good duty in the Marine Corps and I survived the last part so I guess that was good duty too.”
One of his proudest achievements is earning the Presidential Unit Citation Award twice. He is the recipient of The Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. He also earned expert rifleman three out of four times, “…and wasn’t any of them an M16!” Cook served in the Marine Corps from November 10, 1963 until February 7, 1968.
He used his GI bill benefits to attend college in Fayetteville for a short time. He has two children, Courtney and Clyde III or ‘C3’. Cook worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad for 36 years before retiring. He says he’s been blessed in his retirement and is thankful for the memories, summing up his experiences as having “lived a good ‘ole life…been around the world.”
Clyde is a cancer survivor and is active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in North Little Rock where he is the only member who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. “I’ll be a Marine until the day I die.”
“Clyde Cook answered the call to serve his country in uniform and did so with honor and distinction. I’m proud to honor his service and sacrifice and share his memories of service for future generations,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Cook’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.