John Ronald Cool – First Lieutenant, United States Army

John Cool didn’t talk much about his military service in Vietnam, but he revealed much after he died. Cool, a Marshall, Minnesota, native, died in January at the age of 62, without his friends and family knowing much about his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Cool had arranged for his funeral to be held at Arlington National Cemetery because he figured he’d outlive his siblings, said older brother Bob Cool of Marshall.

The funeral was held on April 3 and had full military honors that spoke more about Cool’s service in Vietnam than he did in the roughly 40 years after he returned home.

“It’s just amazing how much honor and respect the people at Arlington gave him. It was just amazing,” Bob Cool said. “There was so much honor and respect, it really takes you aback.”

The service included a 20-piece military marching band, a 35-member Honor Guard and a caisson pulled by six white horses. Military officials at the service said the honor was because of Cool’s First Lieutenant rank, and because of Cool’s military record and commendations, Bob Cool said.

Cool was a First Lieutenant with the Army infantry, Company D 2nd Battalion Airborne of the 8th Cavalry.

Cool was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal for Valor in action, and other ribbons and citations for outstanding service, Bob Cool said.

A copy of a recommendation for which Cool received an Army commendation for heroism said, “When his unit became heavily engaged with a large enemy force, Lieutenant Cool exposed himself to the hostile fire as he directed his men into a blocking position.

Disregarding his own safety, Cool then successfully led an assault against the enemy positions and succeeded in neutralizing them.”

Family members obtained copies of their brother’s military record. There are 44 pages that have numerous recommendations for awards received and testimonies of Cool’s leadership, service and the high regard his platoon, other officers and soldiers had for him, Bob Cool said.

“He shared none of this with his family and friends,” Bob Cool said.

Lois Henkel of Marshall was a longtime friend of Cool’s.

“He really never talked about it,” Henkel said of her friend’s military service.

When the two friends had talked about their respective funerals and the need to plan, Cool was matter-of-fact about being buried in Arlington, Henkel said.

“He had said, ‘I can be buried there, so that’s where I am going to be buried,’” Henkel said.

When Henkel learned of the honors John Cool received for his military service, she was surprised because he didn’t mention it, but not surprised someone of his character and personality would earn them.

“He did not give up on a person,” Henkel said. “Once you were his friend, you were his friend. You had to do something really awful for you not to be his friend. I wouldn’t be surprised that he really put himself out there on the line (in the military).”

John Cool would have believed it was his role as a leader and that he owed it to his his people, his soldiers, Henkel said.

Henkel and Bob Cool believe there are other veterans like Cool. Soldiers who served with honor, who earn commendations but have never talked about that service.

“Without a doubt that’s true,” Bob Cool said. “I’m sure there are others here in Marshall.”

“I think there is,” Henkel said. Her father was a WWII veteran, and he never talked about his service, Henkel said.

Bob Cool was so moved to learn of his brother’s military record and the military service, he wrote his impressions.

“(On) 9 a.m. Thursday, April 3, 2008, on the top of a high hill in Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking Washington, D.C. and the Pentagon, the group assembled.

“The procession began moving down the hill on the lanes of that special place of quiet, awesome, respectful atmosphere,” Cool wrote. “…The music floated softly back to the family and friends who followed on foot behind the caisson. It added to the almost surreal scene.”

“When those troops came down the hill and that huge air troop carrier flew over and dipped…it just tore your heart,” Bob Cool said.

The brother was so unspoken about his military service in life had now told them much.


  • 1LT   US ARMY
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/30/1945
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/14/2008

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