From service to sailing.
Meet Gordon Cook, a veteran and V Teamer charting new courses on the water.
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For Gordon Cook, life was good.
He’d met the love of his life Wendi. He had a good job working as a Verizon engineer in Atlanta. On weekends, he served in the Army National Guard to help pay off a college loan. He enjoyed his time as a part-time soldier as he got to do “cool stuff.”
Then came September 11th, 2001.
I was sitting there looking at the Twin Towers on 9/11 on TV and I actually called the Army and asked if they needed me. A few months later I was back in training.
Within a year, Gordon was stationed in Afghanistan as a Green Beret. That’s when he experienced some of the perks of working for a company like Verizon.
“If you get activated on active duty, the law states that when you come back, your employer has to give you your old job back. But Verizon went above and beyond. They recognized early that 9/11 was truly a national emergency.”
Gordon answered the call, serving two deployments with Army Special Forces. In 2006, his second tour came to a sudden end. “I was a liaison officer for the United Arab Emirates Special forces. We were doing a reconnaissance mission in a small convoy near the Helmand River when we got ambushed.”
Gordon’s unit came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, mortar, machine gun and sniper fire. He was hit multiple times. “First I got hit by a Taliban soldier, then by a sniper. My left femoral artery was pierced, my right wrist was blown up, and I caught one in my chest that was stopped by body armor.”
The fragments from the bullet hitting his chest plate left his face bleeding. He was on the ground in incredible pain, treating himself with a tourniquet, when he got the help he needed. ”My commander Michael Waltz -- who is now a congressman -- saved my life.”
Gordon was evacuated by helicopter, medivaced to Qatar and eventually sent home. He still has the piece of body armor with the bullet impression that saved his life. “I got the Purple Heart. It’s pretty cool - I got a special license plate. I’m 17 for 18 with getting out of speeding tickets now. One guy wouldn’t budge.”
Gordon not only faced a long recovery but a difficult transition back to civilian life, challenges made easier by his employer. “Verizon has an amazing program for military folks who get deployed or activated. They took great care of me. I was given recovery time due to my wounds.”
After coming back from Afghanistan and living on Puget Sound in Washington, Gordon sought a more peaceful activity to help with his emotional recovery.
Sailing offered complementary challenges to engineering. “In a lot of ways, it’s similar to what I do at Verizon. It’s like a puzzle. You have the force of the wind on the sails and the countervailing force of the water pushing on the keel; the water on the rudder pushing another way. All of that works together to propel you through the water. I find it fascinating.”
The Corazon has become an integral part of Gordon’s life. “I spend about 90% of my time fixing it and 10% of my time sailing because it’s an old boat and things break. My wife calls it my ‘mistress.’”
Gordon currently lives in Seattle with his wife and two dogs in a remodeled 85-year old house. He has two adult daughters.
When not on his boat, he enjoys working for Verizon, now entering his 25th year. In his current role as a wireless engineering director, his territory includes Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Idaho. “We’re the designers and builders of stuff. Now we’re trying to build 5G, and it’s a real challenge on the West Coast.”
Gordon’s other hobby is community engagement work. His local Verizon team just finished a support project for a Seattle organization that fights poverty and homelessness.
But if it’s a nice summer weekend, look for Gordon on the boat, enjoying good days and bad. “My wife came down to see me one time. I was covered with sweat. There was blood coming out of my knuckles. I was cursing. She said ‘you look really happy.’” Gordon laughs at the memory. “It’s very hands on. It’s good.”