Deployed Marine follows grandfather’s footsteps

24 Dec 2012 | Sgt. Ned Johnson 1st Marine Division

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan— A few things have survived the passage of time from World War II until now. Cpl. Stephen Cook, a legal services specialist with Regimental Combat Team 7, has a “Soldier’s Prayer” book his family carried in battle during WWII.

In fact, that book has been passed throughout his family and has now been to nearly every major U.S. war since WWII. Now, Cook carries the book in the pocket of his uniform in Afghanistan.

Patriotism flows throughout Cook’s family, as many family members have served in all branches of the military. There are special notes in the book from his family members who served in Korea after his great-grandfather, Percy Werttemberger, passed it down after WWII.

The book was then given to John Werttemberger, Cook’s grandfather, who carried it as a Marine in Vietnam. Cook was inspired to be like his grandfather.

“My grandfather had a lot of influence on me, and he was a Marine,” said Cook, a 21-year-old native of Walla Walla, Wash. “He was somebody I looked up to, and when I wanted to join a force, I joined the Marine Corps.”

Cook is proud to call himself a Marine like his grandfather, and with the title came more goals. Cook would like to become a warrant officer in the future.

“This is a great opportunity for me to learn the investigations side of my job,” Cook said. “To be a warrant officer, I will need to know all the different parts of this (Marine Occupational Specialty).”

Cook currently serves in a job position typically held by more senior Marines, which will help in his goal of becoming a warrant officer.

“He is definitely growing and doing a great job,” said Capt. Mark Blackborow, the deputy regimental judge advocate with RCT-7. “This is a (staff noncommissioned officer) billet, so to be doing it as well as he is doing it as a corporal is huge.

Cook is more than just good at his job, he is also good at being a Marine, said Blackborow.

“He is always locked on and knows his customs and courtesies,” said Blackborow, a 29-year-old native of East Brunswick, N.J. “He is the whole Marine concept. He embodies that.”

When not working, Cook said he spends his time chatting with his wife via webcam or working on Marine Corps Institute classes. He also plans to begin reading books off the Commandant’s recommended reading list.

Cook’s family is supportive of his choice to join the Marines and they even setup a Facebook account to support him while deployed. But for Cook, the tradition of the family prayer book is his motivation.

“I wanted to carry on the family legacy,” Cook said. “It’s an honor to do so.

“If there is a servicemember in the next generation of my family, it will be passed down to them.”

1st Marine Division