VAN METER, Iowa — He was one of the last of Darby’s Rangers an elite group of soldiers serving in World War II. Lester Cook of Des Moines did not stop there he also served in the Korean Conflict and was an advisor in the early days of the Vietnam War.
Lester Cook died August 9th, at age 97. A service was held for him and is survivors at the Iowa Veterans Cemetary.
“Les volunteered and was selected to serve in the first Ranger Battalion the Darby’s Rangers,” said David Doty, a Chaplain of the 132nd Wing of the Iowa Air Guard. “He served all of World War II with the first and fourth Ranger Battalion and then served as a paratrooper with 187th airborne infantry during the Korean War.”
During his service stint, he was awarded two Silver Stars, and four Purple Hearts.
“He was shot twice in the neck, stabbed by a bayonet during hand to hand combat, and took shrapnel to his leg,” said Doty.
Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst worked on a bipartisan bill to award WWII Rangers a Congressional Gold Medal.
“My prayers are with you all since the moment when I heard the news of Les’s passing,” said Ernst. “I pray the memories of his life a life marked by tremendous service and sacrifice can bring you comfort during this time, and as you all know Ranger Cook he dedicated his life to the service of our great nation.”
Ernst’s office did a video interview with Cook, where he described an incident, where he rescued five American soldiers from German captivity.
“I was up behind them, I had a tommy gun, and I yelled for the Americans hit the dirt, and the Germans didn’t know what I was saying eliminated the Germans and got our five men back,” said Cook.
On hand for the ceremony were current members of the US Army Rangers. They performed a flag folding ceremony, and presented the flag to Carolyn, Lester Cook’s widow.