The state of Texas, and the United States as a whole, just lost one of its heroes.
On Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, Navy veteran Aaron Cook died at the age of 96. He was laid to rest in the national cemetery in Houston, Texas, on Thursday, Aug. 8, while friends and family gathered to pay their respects.
Before he died, Cook would often speak to children about his time in the Navy. And Cook would always bring up a horrific piece of American history that he witnessed … the attack on Pearl Harbor.
You see, prior to his death, Cook was the last-known Pearl Harbor survivor in the state of Texas.
After enlisting in the Navy just days after his 18th birthday, Cook was stationed on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. At the time of the attack, he was 19 years old and retold the events as they unfolded during a 2016 interview with ABC13’s Ted Oberg.
“It was a pleasant day, just like all the rest of them,” he recalled, “Suddenly, we heard these airplanes coming over. Somebody said, ‘What’s going on?‘”
Cook also talked about his experience in a previous interview.
He originally thought he was watching a practice attack, but soon realized that wasn’t the case. Thinking back on the terrible things he witnessed, he said, “Oh, goodness. I grew up in one day.”
Following his funeral, his widow, Marjorie Cook, revealed that decades passed before Aaron Cook finally felt comfortable talking about what he had witnessed. And once that sense of comfort came, he made sure to spread the word about his experience:
“He was a great storyteller, but he did not say much for a long time,” Marjorie Cook said. “I’d say it was 20 or 30 years before he’d ever talk about it. I think all of a sudden, it dawned on him what he’d been through. He was afraid that people were going to forget about that attack on Pearl Harbor. He wanted people to always remember that.“
In his 2016 interview, he expressed those same sentiments.
When explaining why he told children about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cook said it was to help the children realize it was an event that should never be repeated.
“I hope that they realize that, you know, it’s something that we don’t want to do again,” he said. “Needless to say, I don’t want to do it again anyway.”