MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY Ga. -- A cool breeze blew under the flagpole in the chilly September morning.
The Chaplain Corps would soon say goodbye to a longtime servant. Family and friends gathered to show their appreciation and admiration for a man whose impact on this base has had eternal ramifications.
Lt. Cmdr. Thomas E. Cook, MCLB Albany chaplain, retired here in a joint ceremony Sept. 29.
He has touched thousands of lives and shared Gods grace wherever he has been, said Gilbert G. Ward, director of Installation and Logistics, MCLB Albany, who spoke at the ceremony.
Here at Albany, he has served this community as Gods man on the scene, said Ward. He is a powerful preacher, talented musician and singer. He is a wise counselor to all who call on him, he said.
Cook, who has been in the Navy for 21 years, has been the base chaplain of MCLB Albany for more than a year and a half.
Im not a Marine, but I work among Marines and Im a chaplain of Marines and that means a lot to me Cook said tearfully.
With that, the audience broke into a thunderous applause.
When Cook regained his composure, he left the audience with one final anecdote.
According to Cook, walking through a hangar bay while on deployment one year, he noticed a platoon-size group of Marines around a piece of canvas laid out on the floor. At first, thinking a fight had broken out, Cook went to break it up.
When he got closer, however, he found that the crowd was teasing and taunting a young Marine in the center, who was attempting to disassemble and reassemble a heavy machine gun.
The Marine, flustered by the chaos the group was causing around him, stopped, unable to finish his task.
The platoon sergeant then asked Whos next? and a young Marine stepped forward.
He looked down at the weapon and went to work, focusing on the mission at hand. He tuned out all the surrounding chaos and listened to the quiet voice of a corporal sitting next to him who directed his actions.
I knew exactly what they were doing, said Cook. They were training for war.
Cook paused for a moment, looking the audience in the eyes.
Like the young machine gunner, he continued, we need to focus on the tasks at hand and listen to the still, calm voice of the Father above.
He smiled, raising his hands slightly to emphasize his point.
That is my encouragement to you, he said.
As you go out into the world, and you see so much chaos and destruction around you, keep your focus on the Lord keep your faith alive.
Keep your faith alive, he repeated with tears in his eyes. Listen to the calm voice around you that gives you direction in life, that says youre doing okay.
The crowd, left in silence for a moment, erupted in a standing ovation for the minister as he prepared to go ashore, leaving his career at sea.
Cook ceremoniously walked down the boarding platform one final time, and gave a farewell salute as the Marine Band, Albany, played Anchors Aweigh, followed by the Marine Hymn.