I have an obligation to set the record straight and make an open apology to the surviving family members of Billy Lee Cook who was killed in action in Viet Nam. I, alone, assume responsibility for any shortcomings of our ceremony on Sept 11th.
Our Memorial Dedication at the high school last week included eulogies for many of our Fallen Heroes. Unfortunately, time did not permit us to tell the stories of all 24 honorees. As was the case, many of the 24 had very little information or pictures available. And, despite our attempts to get more information from surviving family members, very little came forward.
That was not entirely the case with Billy Cook. In the chaos of putting the program together, I overlooked a manila folder that had been dropped off at the house. In it was a photo of Billy in his uniform and newspaper clippings from his obituary. I would have used both – but because of my oversight, they were not included in the program. Although I used two photos of him in the eulogy, there should have been more. But despite my shortcoming, I do believe that Billy was honored in the ceremony for his sacrifice to our country.
The “special presentation” was not conducted by the VFW. It was a very personal presentation by the two gentlemen to the Fox family. The VFW Post did not orchestrate nor design the presentation, therefore, the very honorable men and women of the Guthrie-Pierce VFW Post are not accountable for that portion of the program. No one can ever question the level of respect that they show to all veterans.
While we did not make other “personal” presentations to any other family members, we still believe all of our families were honored for the sacrifices of their loved ones. That was not diminished in any way. All 24 of our honorees deserve to be memorialized and I believe we accomplished that very well. The lasting Memorial at the school honors ALL of them equally – not one above the other. It is there for posterity.
I will always attempt to deliver the best I can to the community; whether it be in a project or a ceremony. Unfortunately, I may fall short sometimes, but will learn from the mistake for the future. I have corrected the video, but I can’t redo the ceremony itself. I apologize to Billy’s family if they felt any disrespect. It was not intentional.
Billy Lee Cook, and all of the other 23 honorees, was a hero. Anything less than our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the surviving families is simply wrong.