JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - When Army Reserve Sgt. Henry Cocker is struggling to complete one more situp or carry his ruck sack one more mile, it's more than just training and toughness that drives him onward.
What gives him the drive to succeed is are the values instilled within him by his father.
“Dad was always the one pushing us to go to class and telling us what's good and what's not good, so that helped me stay on the right path,” said Cocker, a supply sergeant with the Army Reserve's 228th Aviation Regiment headquartered here.
Cocker, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, was raised in his family's home in the Kingdom of Tonga, a nation comprised of 176 islands in the South Pacific, before returning to the United States and joining the Army in 2007.
“I'm the first one in my family who joined the U.S. military, so it's an honor,” said Cocker.
Cocker was also honored to compete in the the 2014 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition, which tests Soldiers' resiliency and warrior skills in events such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, M16 rifle and M9 pistol qualification ranges, hand-to-hand combatives, day and night land navigation, 8-mile ruck march, urban operations and several mystery events throughout the week.
“I love the competition, I love competing,” he said. “This is my second time as a competitor. I didn't win last year, so I decided to compete again and try to win.”
Cocker's tenacity and unwillingness to quit seems to come from his strong sense of family.
“As the oldest of five, I try to be the best at everything,” Cocker said. “Instead of just sitting at my desk sending emails all day, I'd rather be out in the field or at the range shooting rounds, and that's exactly what this competition is – you have the chance to be a better Soldier.”
Cocker added that he strives to better himself and his family at every turn.
“The most rewarding thing is just the experience of being in the military,” he continued. “I compare myself to some of my friends who I was in high school with, and there's no discipline to stay on path like we in the Army do and progress in their goals. Some of them are still back home and all they do is put a burden on their parents.”
Helping to take some financial burden away from his family is one of Cocker's priorities.
“The military really helped my family. They're still back home in Tonga, so every now and then I send them money because money's kind of tight. There's nothing to really live off except the land,” he explained. “My dad is retired now, and nobody has got a job except my brother.”
Cocker plans to give the same kind of guidance to his future children as his father gave to him.
“I would encourage them, but of course I would let them make their own choice. I'm not going to take away their freedom,” he said. “He always taught us that he expects us to make our own choices when we're older, so we get to live our lives just like he did.”
As Cocker continues to build his military career and his family, the voice of his father will continue to guide him along his path.