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If you’ve not been to Alaska, you need to go, and you need to go soon so you won’t say, “I wish I went earlier.”
Alaska is a place of incredible beauty, with wildlife right outside your window, dangers that are more than just conversation and the rugged individualistic spirit of people similar to those who settled this great country.
It’s bigger than the maps depict it, colder than you can imagine, with scenes the camera can’t replicate. It’s bigger, wilder, rougher and more incredible than I would have thought, and I plan to go back—often.
As I endured the 13-hour flight back to North Carolina, emerging from the coma of exhaustion on the plane, I kept thinking about how great the place was and how wonderful it could be to live there
But as I looked down seeing the landscape of our great state unfold, I realized again there’s truly no place like home.
As beautiful as Alaska is, as wild and great the scenery, it doesn’t have what we have. It doesn’t have our tremendous diversity of mountains, piedmont and coastal plains.
It doesn’t have cities that are closely connected by roads that aren’t blocked by ice, snow and the occasional avalanche.
It doesn’t have our great people who personify the Southern charm and hospitality that are part of our heritage or the diversity we champion.
I also came away from Alaska learning a great lesson. I went up there participating with Champions of Freedom, a foundation my brother Stuart Cooke and a family friend, David Hays, had started.
They had a vision to create a means to support those in service with things like scholarships for children of service personnel, and the means to help those who were wounded get back on their feet.
As a result, I went to Alaska with a team who are in the Wounded Warrior program from Walter Reed Army Medical Center who are single or double amputees from various branches of service.
What I learned from them is the warrior mentality and spirit are a real thing. They may have lost part of their bodies, which means a tremendous change in their lifestyles and that of their families, but as far as who they are or anything else, nothing has changed.
They’re still in the active military, and they’re still working and supporting us. They don’t want help, pity or anyone to feel sorry for them, and they’re truly outstanding people. (Some are so determined to do things themselves they even sawed off the handles of their wheelchairs.)
It’s evident that regardless of what they do in life, they’re going to be successful, because they’re determined, tenacious and indomitable. They have a spirit that won’t quit.
I learned from them that no matter what life throws at you, to never ever give up or surrender.
We may have setbacks, we may have hardships, and life isn’t fair.
But if we are determined, tenacious and have an indomitable attitude, we’ll be the people who make things happen, and we’ll go much further than many would have ever thought possible.
MARTY COOKE is a local businessman and columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.