“My junior year at the Mount I was commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps,” says Jane (Hendricks) Cook ’91. “I wanted to change my life. I didn’t know I would be a witness to history.”
Cook’s first post was in Berlin, Germany, right after the wall came down. She also served in Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Then in 2009, Cook got another phone call. “The Army wanted to know if I was interested in going back into a combat zone,” she says. “ Without hesitation, I said ‘Yes.’”
The combat zone was in Afghanistan. She served three tours in Kabul as the only medical person in the north, taking care of 1,000 soldiers.
Cook holds the title of the title of longest serving civilian nurse in Afghanistan. Her work earned her the Commander’s Award for superior service (an equivalent to a Bronze Star), a large NATO gold medal award, a Civilian Combat Award, and numerous military medals.
And her stories earned her a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
“I wrote two books about my experiences,” she said. “People are curious about what it’s like. Half the time the telephones don’t work, or the lights. People are at the gates trying to shoot you. I would write notes wearing a Kevlar helmet and flak jacket.” The Pulitzer-nominated “From Kabul, With Luv,” and her other book, “Welcome to Camp Cupcake,” have also been optioned for a movie.
“One of my favorite stories is that I once had a mission to go to every single post and give the soldiers their flu shot, no matter where they were,” she says. “I got the Air Force to loan me a helicopter and another girl and I found every single person. It was very dangerous. Sometimes we had to sleep over. I once even slept in a Lean-to in the Jalalabad airport.”
After Afganistan, Cook transferred to the Navy and is currently awaiting her visa so she can deploy again. “I want to do one more tour, then I will retire,” she says. “I will serve as Supervisory Occupational Medicine Nurse for the U.S. Navy Hospital in Naples, Italy.”
As she looks back over her career, Cook is thankful for Mount foundation. “I remember looking out the window on my last day, and thinking, “I have become a person of worth and value.”
As for serving in a combat zone? “I’m glad I did it,” she says. “But I don’t want to do it again!”