By John Moyle
Twelve-year IBEW Local 1 member Rodney Cook, an industrial electrician at GKN Aerospace, believes every veteran who has been honorably discharged from the American armed forces deserves a proper welcome home.
In 2012 he and his wife, Gretchen, started an organization called Mission: American Gratitude (http://www.missionamericangratitude.com/) to do just that in the Riverbend area of Illinois.
“We want our veterans to feel like heroes when they come home and thank them for their service and the sacrifices they made for all of us,” Cook said. “We also want to rekindle the patriotic spirit and pride our communities used to have.”
GREG BOOTH COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Local 1 recognized Cook’s efforts last week by presenting him with the first ever Greg Booth Community Service Award. Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs, along with President Tom George Sr. and a number of other officers, were on hand for the presentation.
Booth, the former business manager of Local 1, who died last year following several months of illness, was well known in his trade, as well as labor and political circles throughout St. Louis. He was also involved in charities and projects in the community like DARE, the United Way, the Woman’s Network and Youth in Need, among others.
“Greg did a lot of good for the community all the years he was around,” Jacobs said. “He would be glad we did this in his name
“We’re always looking for good things that IBEW members do,” Jacobs said. “If these are the kind of union thugs we are, we ought to all be union thugs.”
In addition to the award, Local 1 presented Cook with a check for $500 to help him with another of his projects, “Operation: Let It Wave,” to provide and install an American-made American flag on the home of any veterans in the area who do not have one.
“This will definitely get us a lot of flags,” Cook said. “We have some plaques that we give the guys, too, when we give them a flag. We hope this takes off.”
MISSION: AMERICAN GRATITUDE
Mission: American Gratitude makes every effort to make returning veterans feel like heroes. The organization depends on the family and friends of returning veterans to notify them in advance. However, once they have the details, they reach out in all directions, enlisting every resource available to surprise veterans with a proper welcome.
Mayoral proclamations, military and school bands, representatives and honors from veterans’ organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the USO, police and fire escorts as well as miles of full size American flags and digital signs welcoming them home by name are all possible surprises for returning veterans thanks to this organization.
OPERATION: LET IT WAVE
Cook hopes the Operation: Let It Wave program – providing and installing flags on the homes of veterans – will promote patriotism by motivating neighbors to fly their own flags while also honoring local veterans.
Mission: American Gratitude is also reaching out to other veterans’ organizations to help develop a network of local support to help ease the transition into civilian life for local veterans and their families. Developing resources for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is the top priority, though many other ideas are on the drawing board as well.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Volunteers and supporters are essential to the operation’s success, Cook said.
“Just 20 minutes on a line waving a flag for a returning veteran is a positive force that will be remembered for the remainder of that returning service member’s life” he said.
Cook is always looking for volunteers, and is currently supporting about 90 percent of the cost of the organization personally.
If you would like information about how you can help check out Cook’s webpage at: http://www.missionamericangratitude.com. Be sure to click the “Contact” link at the top of the page if you’d like to volunteer, make a donation, start a chapter near you, notify them about a returning honorably discharged veteran, or just say thank you.
(John Moyle is an IBEW Local 1 electrician and press secretary for IBEW Local 1. He also writes for Local 1’s St. Louis Powercast website at http://stlpowercast.com/.)