Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
American soldier and Iraq war veteran Joe Cook has created a YouTube video with a powerful message for politicians who speak against the Iraq war: “When you call the Iraqi war a mistake, you disrespect the service and the sacrifice of everyone who has died promoting freedom.”
The video with a simple message and a shocking ending has surpassed 5 million hits and over 700 responses.
The video is in itself a response to various comments by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, such as those that appeared in a July 14, 2008, editorial in the New York Times, where Obama wrote, “I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.”
Cook, of Wauconda, Ill., has served in the military for four years and in Iraq for a tour of 12 months. He believes the work and sacrifice of our soldiers in Iraq should never be called a mistake.
“Dear Mr. Obama,” Cook’s video begins, as he speaks into the camera beside an American flag, “Having spent 12 months in the Iraq theater, I can promise you this was not a mistake. I witnessed firsthand the many sacrifices made for the people of Iraq. Those sacrifices were not mistakes.”
Cook told WND, “I have paid a price. I have friends who have paid the ultimate price. And it is very powerful that through the history of our country great men had to sacrifice in blood to keep this country free. That in itself is very powerful; it should be very prideful for people to look back on our country’s history and know that there are still people who will pay that sacrifice for everybody’s freedom.”
The meaning of the word “sacrifice” to Cook becomes even more apparent after watching the video, which you can see below:
As Cook walks away from the camera at the end of the video, revealing his missing leg, the underlying meaning of his assertion, “Freedom is always worth the price,” becomes clear.
Joe’s father, Bob Cook, told WND the story of how his son paid that price.
Joe’s time in Iraq was winding down, only a few months from coming home, when Bob got a phone call at work.
“Dad?” said Joe, the youngest of Bob’s three sons who have served in Iraq.
The tone of Joe’s voice instantly told Bob something was wrong.
“How bad?” Bob asked.
Joe told his father that he had been patrolling in a striker battalion when a roadside bomb tore through the vehicle. They had been hit before, but this was particularly powerful. Joe’s left leg had been crushed so badly, there was no choice but to amputate.
“That was a shock and a blow,” Bob told WND. “But I knew he would survive, that’s the most important thing.”
After spending last summer in a hospital in San Antonio, Joe came home to Illinois, where his family was contacted by a private party about making a video based on Joe’s experience. His father, an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention for the McCain camp, told Joe about the opportunity.
Joe then met with the man for 3 hours to script and shoot the video. Despite the video’s endorsement of the Republican ticket, there’s no indication that the man had any official connection to the McCain campaign. Joe regrettably admitted to WND that he has forgotten the name of the man who helped him film the video, but explained that he edited the man’s script to express his personal touch and thoughts.
“The main thing is, support the troops,” Joe told WND when asked what message he hoped people would take away from the video. “They’re over there fighting for freedom and we always need to support them, love what they do, just support the troops 100 percent.”
Despite the McCain endorsement in the video, response online has been overwhelmingly favorable.
“He says what many of us feel,” wrote a respondent identified as robertlee528. “After coming home from a long deployment, it hurts to hear people say we are wrong for building schools and hospitals. If more people could only see what really happens.”
“Ugh … I am so tired of stuff like this,” wrote respondent austinmcconnell in one of the few critical comments. “Obama isn’t saying that the soldiers themselves are horrible people who deserve no respect. Obama is calling it a diplomatic mistake. We had no evidence whatsoever of the existence of weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. None. He isn’t calling your sacrifice a mistake! Just the circumstances of you’re being there.”
Some respondents, however, have responded by adding to Cook’s voice their own stories of sacrifice.
“My brother was killed by a sniper in Iraq,” wrote toonphreak1, “two weeks before he was supposed to return home to his family, including his three-year-old son.
“It makes me furious to hear people call what our troops are doing in Iraq a ‘mistake.’ The young man my brother pushed out of the path of that sniper’s bullet would not call my brother’s heroism a mistake.”
Lastly, Joe’s dad has offered an opinion on the video that Joe will likely remember for the rest of his life.
“I love it,” Bob told WND. “I think it’s very powerful. I think he did a good job with it. I’m very proud of him.”