SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — It’s the little things like the sound of birds or the ruffling of leaves that Khaliah Cook doesn’t really hear much anymore.
“You still have that scary feeling in the back of your mind like you’re walking into this danger zone."
The graduate nurse is on the front lines at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, where she is working to keep veterans alive and safe from the coronavirus.
“You still have to go in every day with that smile on your face. You can’t go in like ‘I’m sad, I’m scared, I don’t want to be here,’ you know.”
Before Cook fell in love with nursing, her heart was with the Navy.
“The Navy was great. I mean, you go to meet people from all different walks of life and get to fellowship with those people, build friendships with those people.”
Cook left her small town of Ferriday, La., to join the Navy in 1996. She went to boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., then was sent to Norfolk, Va., to serve on the USS Mount Whitney, where she worked as a ship firefighter.
It was September 2009 when Cook was deployed to Iraq.
“I took an assignment to go to Iraq to do detainee opts, which I worked at the prison in Iraq that held ISIS and all those terrorist groups," she said.
She was there nine months training and learning hand-to-hand combat for her job when she broke her ankle, ending her 14-year career with the Navy.
Cook eventually set her sights on getting a nursing degree. A veteran-based organization called the 40&8, also known as the Forty and Eight, provided her with a much-needed scholarship to help her finish her last semester of nursing school.
“To know that I’m able to complete a goal that I set my mind to, regardless of obstacles, regardless of life situations, regardless of whatever, I was still able to complete that goal," she said.
Cook eventually will enjoy the small but simple sounds of the outdoors again. But right now, she’s grateful to have accomplished her goal and help those who need her the most.
“If I can do it and I can finish, I’m telling you anybody can. It is possible as long as you stay determined, stay focused and do what you gotta do. The goal can be done.”
Cook plans to take her NCLEX exam May 6 so she can finally become a Registered Nurse.
Her daughter has followed in her military footsteps and serves in the Navy.