According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 522,188 veterans call Arizona home. Here is a little bit more about them.
Glenn Richard Cook taught airmen to drop the bombs that helped win World War II, his family says. Now, all they want is military honors at his funeral on Veterans Day.
But an apparent paperwork snag may mean the veteran won’t be honored with the full ceremony.
A spokesman for Luke Air Force Base said that even if documentation was found, the base likely could not coordinate services on such short notice. Representatives for the Arizona National Guard and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs did not immediately return calls and emails.
Hans Jessen, a volunteer bugler, stepped up to help after The Arizona Republic submitted a request to Bugles Across America, which provides musicians for free to play “Taps.” However, the gun-salute and flag-folding parts of the ceremony are still in the air.
The leader of a volunteer honor guard told The Republic he would like to help, but the group already is booked for holiday events Saturday morning.
Cook, who died Nov. 2 at age 97, was stationed in New Jersey as a flight engineer in the Army Air Corps during World War II, his family said.
He taught airmen how to bomb targets from B-17s and worked on the components that dropped bombs, nephew Rick Travis said.
“He put all his effort in it,” Travis said. “I never knew it would be so hard (to get military honors). … We’re really let down.”
Congress in 2000 required the Defense Department to provide at no charge a military funeral honors ceremony to every eligible veteran upon the family’s request, including folding and presenting the United States burial flag and playing “Taps.”
However, the law requires proof of honorable discharge, such as the veteran’s military separation paperwork, known as a DD 214.
Cook’s family wasn’t aware of the requirement until the funeral home told them.
The veteran’s paperwork is nowhere to be found, Travis said. Cook moved with his wife and daughter from Ohio to Mesa in 1965.
“We’ve gone through everything. You figure it was 60 years ago,” the nephew said.
The family submitted an expedited online request to the National Archives early this week for a copy but had not received a reply, and relatives were unable to reach the agency by phone.
One website says family members can sometimes get proof through the Veterans Affairs Department if the service member received health care. Cook had a medical record book with his military service number on it and year it was issued, Travis said.
But Phoenix VA representatives did not help Cook’s family, the nephew said, and instead focused on canceling his disability payments.
SEE ALSO: Facts about Arizona’s 522,188 veterans
The family also turned for help, without success, to Luke Air Force Base, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, he said.
“We’ve given them everything we could possibly give them,” along with photos of Cook in uniform, Travis said. “None of that matters. They wanted to see this piece of paper.”
Late Thursday, staffers for Sen. Jeff Flake told Travis that the Defense Department was working to locate the form, but it would take several days to process, too late to provide official honors at Cook’s funeral, he said.
Honor guards operated by volunteers, however, are able to perform ceremonies without strict documentation.
Travis hopes other families save themselves from such an ordeal by requesting loved ones’ paperwork ahead of time at https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records.
“Once someone dies, you’re really limited on time,” Travis said.
The funeral for Cook is 11 a.m. Saturday in Mesa at Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery, 7900 E. Main St.
If you would like to volunteer, contact reporter Rebekah L. Sanders at 602-663-0045 or [email protected].
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