National American Indian Heritage Month spotlight: Rosemary Cook

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

History, heritage and culture are recognized every November during National American Indian Heritage Month - an event celebrated by Americans whose lineage falls from Native American, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiian lines.

In recognition of this month, Rosemary Cook, the 97th Operations Support Squadron commander’s secretary and a Navajo Native American, shared her family's history full of deeply rooted native traditions, and military customs.

Born in Gallup, New Mexico, Cook grew up part of the Isleta Clan and is the oldest of seven children. However, thanks to the military, she grew up traveling around the world. Her father is a member of the Navajo Tribe and an Army veteran, while her mother is half Navajo and half Isleta Pueblo.

Along with her native heritage, Cook’s family also has an extensive history of military service. Cook explains how her father, sister and two of her grandfathers served in the military.

“Quite a bit of my family has served in the military. I have had two grandfathers that served during World War II,” said Cook. “My first grandfather served at Pearl Harbor in the Navy while another one was actually part of the Navajo Code Talkers. This was a designated group of Marines who used their native Navajo language to communicate with American troops overseas when the Japanese cracked the English code used during the war. When the Japanese heard the Navajos speaking, they couldn't understand it like they did English - this was the unbreakable code.”

Following her family members’ footsteps, Cook also served in the military. Cook served four years in the Air Force as an information manager where she met her husband, Shelby. Shelby retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant and currently works for the 97th Maintenance Squadron.

When she and her husband first met, Cook said he was the first non-Native American to be a part of her family. Rosemary and Shelby have renewed their vows three times, each time tradition helps make the ceremonies unique.

“Our first wedding was a justice of the peace wedding in 1995, followed by a Navajo traditional wedding in 1997,” said Cook. “As part of our family’s tradition, during this wedding, my husband not only had to ask my dad’s permission for my hand in marriage, but my grandmother’s as well. When he asked my grandmother, she told him how much I was worth. According to my grandmother, I was worth three sheep, and so he had to bring my grandmother three sheep in order to marry me. Our most recent wedding was blessed by the Catholic Church in 2005, and this is just another way of renewing our vows.”

Since their marriage in 1995, The Cooks have had three daughters and one son, who are all currently going down different paths of life.

“My first daughter is studying to become a doctor, so she is currently working towards her PhD,” said Cook. “My second daughter works at the gym here on base, while the third works as a KC-46 Pegasus tools and parts attendant at the 97th MXS. My son is currently in the Air Force training to become an aircraft electrical and environmental systems specialist.”

Cook explained how her heritage influences many aspects in her life, especially when it comes to family. One of Cook’s favorite family traditions is offering prayers and blessings to the sunrise every morning.

“Every morning we go outside and pray before the sun comes up,” said Cook. “Before the sun rises, there is a distinct rainbow color in the sky which represents the different levels of prayers, and so we ask for blessings whenever this happens. I think this is the most important tradition my family incorporates into their lives - it helps keep us reminded of our proud heritage we carry with us today.”