ARLINGTON – Kari Cook lost her husband in battle in Afghanistan and Jessica Hebert her brother in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Brothers Blake and Brad McPherson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and played for Arlington High School boys basketball coach Nick Brown.
Current basketball player Will Abram’s dad is retired after 20 years with the Navy.
They, and many others, were honored for their military service and sacrifices at Military Appreciation Day at the AHS basketball game Dec. 20.
Military night is one of six special events the team is having for the community this season. Atown Hoops is Jan. 3, Coaches vs. Cancer Jan. 10, Fan Appreciation Feb. 7 and Senior Night Feb. 10. It already celebrated its Community Heroes for local police and fire personnel.
Brown’s wife, Caryn, helped him start the cancer event, even before she was diagnosed with it.
“My wife has been a huge force in this,” he said, adding the community’s support during her treatments only strengthened their efforts.
“We’re humbled to be part of this incredible place,” Brown said Tuesday. “We want to do our best to give back to them.”
They are doing more events this year because, “People are affected by so many different things.” “It’s a blessing to my family, my wife, my program and myself,” he said of giving back.
As for the night itself, Cook said she was happy the military was honored. Unlike some, Cook said she likes to talk about her husband, Spec. Ryan Cook, who served in the Army infantry from 2008-2011.
She appreciates “any time we honor our heroes and veterans who put their lives on the line.”
Cook said while some prefer not to talk about, “When we can honor my husband’s memory I’ll take it.” She said she hasn’t always felt that way, but it’s been a few years now. He was killed on his second tour.
“I’ll still cry here and there, but we want to keep his memory alive,” she said, adding it’s part of the grief journey.
Her husband joined at age 29. There are three children, ages 21, 19 and 16. She works for the Arlington School District and takes tickets at basketball games. Hebert’s brother, Spec. Justin Herbert, was the first person from the state killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Aug. 1, 2003. He was born and raised in Snohomish County and graduated from AHS in 2001.
Brad McPherson graduated from AHS in 2008 and earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2012. He is now a captain and is still active duty while earning his master’s in education from the University of Washington.
“It’s great that Coach Brown likes to give back to the community,” he said.
His brother, Blake, who is four years younger, at first didn’t want to go to West Point. “I wanted to do my own thing,” he said, adding looking back he’s glad he took that route.
He graduated from AHS in 2012, has a degree in mechanical engineering and is a first lieutenant, although he will attend Captain’s Career Course next year. After that he will serve at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He completed Airborne and Ranger school and was stationed in Germany for three years. Abram was stationed all over the world from 1990-2011. He was in Japan twice,and was in the Gulf. He served as a flight deck aircraft controller aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in Everett. He decided to come back here when he retired.
He said he felt honored to be recognized last Friday.
“It’s a special thing how the community embraces the military,” he said. “That’s one thing I like about this area. It supports military families.”
Others who were honored included:
•Paden Pineda also played for Brown, graduating in 2011. He has been deployed to Japan, Thailand and Iraq. The Marine sergeant is now stationed in California.
The other five honored all have ties to the school district:
•Mike Blue is a retired major with the Air Force, serving from 1986-2006. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2006 he has been the Junior ROTC instructor at AHS, where he also teaches senior aerospace science.
•Daylon Deeds also teaches aerospace science at AHS. He retired as a master sergeant with the Air Force, serving from 1997-2017. He was a fuels manager all over the U.S. and in Guam.
•Mike Gudgeon is a Skills, Tech and Math teacher at AHS. He was a steel worker 2nd Class for the Navy, serving from 1994-2000.
•Dennis Cox is a custodian at AHS. He served six years in the Army as Military Police, reaching the rank of Spec. 4.