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August 15, 2013

Soldier's heroism should be recognized

The Daily Star

---- — These days, when there seems to be two sides to everything, when there is merely gray instead of black and white, every once in a while we learn of something so inherently outrageous that there can be no plausible opposing argument.

This is clearly the case when it comes to Army Spc. Matthew Cooke, a 1998 graduate of Afton High School.

Cooke is a war hero. Of that, there can be no doubt.

Except to the U.S. Army, which incredibly considers the former Marine — who was shot five times while saving the life of a senior officer — merely a victim of “workplace violence.”

Four years ago, Cooke was at Fort Hood in Texas on his way to what would have been his third deployment in Iraq. That’s when Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist assigned to the base, began shooting people.

Armed with two laser-sighted pistols and 420 rounds of ammunition, Hasan killed 13 and wounded 32 at a processing center for soldiers heading into combat zones. One of the wounded was the soldier from Afton, who threw his body atop the senior officer who had already been shot.

Cooke was shot five times and continues to suffer the effects of a traumatic brain injury. Bullet fragments remain in his skull, and he’s suffered a partial hearing loss. But he and the others wounded at Fort Hood could not go to special treatment centers because those are reserved for soldiers wounded in combat, said Cooke’s mother, Diane Frappier.

Cooke is about to be discharged from the Army and expects to get a 90 percent medical disability. As a civilian, he will be eligible for a monthly disability check of about $1,800 a month.

“The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” Hasan said at his military trial last week. “The evidence presented with this trial will show one side. The evidence will also show that I was on the wrong side. I then switched sides.”

Those sides are in a war, the war on terror, yet you won’t be seeing any Purple Heart on the chest of war hero Matthew Cooke, because the Army says he’s just a victim of “workplace violence.”

After The Daily Star’s interview with Cooke, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, a recipient of a Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars, said he would advocate for Cooke and the other Fort Hood victims to receive military honors.

“Certainly, this was a terrorist attack,” Gibson said.

Of course it was. To consider Matthew Cooke a victim of “workplace violence” instead of a war hero wounded in the service of his country is an outrage that must be corrected.