Generations of Gratitude

A Lumberjack Salute

NAU
NAU
Nov 9, 2016 · 4 min read

This week (and every week) we celebrate the brave men and women who served our country.

From the student veterans who sit next to us in class, to our Lumberjack alumni who led the way before — they’re all part of our NAU story.

Meet Jack Cocks

One story that runs deep in NAU history is that of World War II veteran Robert W. “Jack” Cocks. If you attended our 2016 NAU Homecoming and saw the flyover during the parade, it was in this Lumberjack’s honor.

Jack Cocks now and then.

Campus Life in 1941

When Jack Cocks attended NAU in 1941, NAU was known as Arizona State Teachers College. At this time, the U.S. Navy was building their aerial force and recruiting eligible pilots from around the country. Soaring high above Flagstaff, the Navy paid a visit to campus with sights set on students like Jack.

Pausing his educational pursuits and leaving behind his campus sweetheart, Jack joined the Navy and became a member of one of their top-fighting air groups, Carrier Air Group 11.

Returning to the Pines

75 years after he was recruited to fly for the Navy, Jack returned to campus with quite a story to tell.

Carrier Air Group 11’s story was compiled into a documentary and made its campus debut at a special Homecoming film screening.

His skill, courage, and untiring perseverance were a source of inspiration to all hands. At all times his conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. — J.S. McCain, vice admiral, U.S. Navy

The ties that bind — a family affair

Not only did Jack receive a Homecoming welcome to remember, he got to share the moment with his granddaughter — Karina Cocks, a freshman at NAU.

A family affair. Alumni Jack Cocks poses with Louie and his Lumberjack granddaughter Karina Cocks at NAU Homecoming.
Moments honoring NAU vet Jack Cocks during Homecoming parade and football game.

We met up with Karina to talk about her “Lumberjack legacy,” her grandfather’s story, and their special Lumberjack bond.

How did you choose NAU, and did your grandfather play a factor in your decision?

I chose NAU because I heard they had a great Biology program. When I was contemplating between attending NAU and other schools, my grandfather proudly shared that NAU was his alma mater and nudged me to become a Lumberjack — it’s really amazing to be attending the same school as my grandfather.

What has your grandfather shared with you about his time as a student?

He really enjoyed being here. When he visited NAU during Homecoming, he told me how much the campus has changed and remembered it being so different. The campus has expanded immensely — especially south campus. The buildings, downtown, the overall infrastructure has grown.

Your grandfather seemed to be quite the legend during Homecoming. Can you tell us about his experience in the US Navy?

My grandfather never shared his naval stories with my father or myself until the movie Eleven was produced. The movie was an amazing way to hear about his experiences.

My grandfather is a hero — during the war, he successfully landed a plane that had caught fire. My grandfather was so proud to serve in the Navy and work alongside the men he served with.

I feel so proud to be a part of his family and see other people appreciate him as much as I do is really amazing. After Eleven, I have been so much more involved with my grandfather and his stories.

We love a good Lumberjack love story, can you give us insight how your grandparents met?

My grandfather met my grandmother while they were students. I know that he had to seek permission from her father, (my great-grandfather) the train station master in Flagstaff, before they were allowed date. When my grandfather joined the Navy, my grandmother waited for him. When he returned to Flagstaff, they married and had four children together.

What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?

Before he left Flagstaff after his visit during Homecoming weekend, he told me that he was really proud of me. He wanted me to enjoy my time at NAU and follow my dreams.

A Veterans Day message

Here’s to our Lumberjack heroes 👏🏼

NAU

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It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.

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