Each month, the Museum invites you to get to know the staff supporting our pillars to Honor, Connect, Inspire and Educate. Meet Mark Cooper, Associate Director of Advancement.
Q: What is your favorite place in the Museum and why?
A: Every place is special, but I have to admit that I tend to linger at the “Coming Home” video alcove. Those stories are so powerful and so different, depending on the era. I remember seeing a quote before our son deployed, that the two longest hugs of your life are when you say good-bye on a deployment and when you welcome them home. That was true for us. So, maybe that’s why that exhibit hits me every time.
Q: What are three words that best describe you?
A: Optimistic. Adaptable. Persistent.
Q: We feature an #NVMMReads recommendation every month, what is a book that you think everyone should have on their “must-read” list?
A: My Dad was a WWII Marine Veteran. So, I’ve always gravitated to books about that era. I’ve read most of Stephen Ambrose’s books, but the one that really made an impact was James Bradley’s book “Flags of Our Fathers,” about the iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima and the trials that followed for the six men who participated in that iconic moment in American and Marine history.
Q: What originally inspired you to start your journey with the NVMM?
A: I’ve had a very interesting and varied career – first in TV journalism and later in higher education public relations, marketing and advancement. However, I’m not a Veteran, and I felt like I wanted to do something to give back for everything this country has given to me. This opportunity came up, and when I interviewed with Gen. Ferriter, I shared those feelings with him and he said, “If you come here and serve Veterans, you are serving your country.” I really sense the meaning of what we do every day here, and I’m eager to come into work each morning. How many people get to say that!?
Q: Tell us about what it is like to be the father of someone in the military?
A: As the son of two WWII Veterans, I’ve always had respect for the men and women who serve our country. But when your kid puts on that uniform, it changes everything. Our son went through a lot to achieve his dream of becoming a Navy officer and my wife and I were tremendously proud to be there when he was commissioned at OCS. But that first deployment to the Middle East was the longest, hardest eight months of our lives. I watched the news non-stop, which was probably not healthy, but I had to know as much as I could about what was going on over there. You learn to live with the old adage, “No news is good news,” but that doesn’t make it any easier when you know your son is in harm’s way.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: I love golf, and I have yet to play at Pebble Beach. My Dad always loved watching the PGA pro-am event at Pebble Beach, so I guess that got locked into my mind as a kid. I just want to stand on the tee at 18 someday and take in that view…before I hit my tee shot left and into the ocean.
Q: What is something that no one would believe about you?
A: I played ice hockey most of my life, which is kind of interesting for a kid who grew up in Marietta, Ohio (50 miles from the nearest ice rink!). But it was a huge part of my life, both as a goalie and a hockey official. When the two opposing teams line up and shake hands at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals is my favorite moment of the sporting year.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
A: My Mom and Dad. Both passed within a few months of each other a few years ago, but I miss them every day. If I think more about a historical figure, it would have to be Thomas Jefferson. I’d love to hear his thoughts about freedom, the role of government and our responsibility as citizens in today’s world. It would be fascinating.
Q: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
A: Undoubtedly it would have been with Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. I was a huge space nut when I was growing up and I remember that moment vividly. To be the first human to set foot on the Moon must have the most exhilarating, terrifying and historic experience imaginable. I’ve read extensively about the Apollo program as I’ve gotten older, which has given me even more respect for the monumental national effort it took to land a man on the Moon and the innumerable things that had to go exactly right to achieve it.
Q: What’s your favorite board game?
A: Stratego! I haven’t played it in years, but it was a military-strategy game with the goal of capturing your opponent’s flag. When I was younger, I used to play it all the time.
Q: What is your go-to karaoke song?
A: Years ago, one of our neighbors had a karaoke party for New Year’s Eve. No one was singing, so I grabbed the microphone, cued up New York, New York and gave it my best “Ol’ Blue Eyes” impression. I don’t know how good it was, but it got the party going! (Rumor has it there’s a video of it out there somewhere, but hopefully it has been lost to time.)