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Vietnam veteran honored at alma mater 55 years after going missing in action

Posted at 8:10 AM, Nov 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 13:15:32-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEx 18) — November 11 has signified a day of gratitude for the men and women past and present who fought on the front lines for our Freedom.

However, the day before Veterans Day holds a special place in the hearts of the community at Bryan Station High School.

November 10, 2022 marks 55 years since Colonel Kelly Francis Cook went missing in action while serving the Air Force in Vietnam.

A native of Keene, Kentucky, Colonel Cook was born in 1922, graduating from Bryan Station in 1939, and ultimately enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942.

Starting a career that would span three wars—WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam where the pilot’s plane went down.

His body was never recovered.

This year, Bryan Station High School hosted a remembrance ceremony to honor Colonel Cook.

The front of the school filled with Junior Air Force cadets in formation saluting the late serviceman.

“He was an Air Force colonel who unfortunately was shot down over south Vietnam 55 years ago today,” said JYT Air Force commander Joshua Holland.

“We’re trying to get them to see the bigger picture and understand there’s something more than just high school and their smaller surroundings. That they’re a part of our country and that they are a heritage that people have been sacrificing for many generations and to honor that sacrifice.”

Far from a large production, the ceremony was meant to be intimate for Colonel Cook’s loved ones.

Kelly’s son Daniel was presented a certificate of service on behalf of his father who he hasn’t seen since he was three years old.

Daniel provided some context on the humble beginnings that bred his war hero dad.

“He was the skinny son of a tobacco farmer. Went on to become a leader of men at the Air Force Academy. He was really well respected among all the people that ever worked with him. A proud Kentuckian and a proud American,” Daniel Cook said.

Living in Seattle now, Daniel doesn’t often make his way back to Lexington or Kentucky in general. In fact, Thursday was the first time he visited his dad’s alma mater.

It was an emotional experience for him to see how much the community cares for Colonel Cook’s years of service for the country and passion for his home state.

“It’s an amazing place. You can see why he was so proud to be from Kentucky and wrote about it and talked about it the rest of his life,” Daniel said.

Colonel Cook is also memorialized on the National Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.