Tradition: Marine takes prayer book into battle


Abook of prayers passed down from family member to family member from World War II is now in the hands of native Walla Wallan U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Stephen Cook, 21, currently stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Great-grandfather Percy Werttemberger carried what an article describes as a “Soldier’s Prayer” into battle during WWII. Special notes in the book were made by family members who served during the Korean War and then it went to Stephen’s grandfather, John Werttemberger, a Marine who served in Vietnam.

“My grandfather had a lot of influence on me, and he was a Marine,” Stephen said in a feature story written by Sgt. Ned Johnson-Small with Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs, and posted on ThirdArmy/USARCENT at

“He was somebody I looked up to, and when I wanted to join a force, I joined the Marine Corps.”

A legal services specialist, Stephen aims to become a warrant officer .

His current post, typically held by more senior Marines, could help in his goal of becoming a warrant officer, the article notes.

“This is a great opportunity for me to learn the investigations side of my job,” he said. “To be a warrant officer, I will need to know all the different parts of this (Marine Occupational Specialty).”

Capt. Mark Blackborow, deputy regimental judge advocate with RCT-7, said Stephen “is definitely growing and doing a great job. This is a (staff noncommissioned officer) billet, so to be doing it as well as he is doing it as a corporal is huge.

“Cook is more than just good at his job, he is also good at being a Marine,” the captain said. “He is always locked on and knows his customs and courtesies. He is the whole Marine concept. He embodies that.”

A member of the Walla Walla High School Class of 2009, Stephen chats via webcam with wife Katie Cook and works on Marine Corps Institute classes in his spare time.

Also on his to-do roster is reading books off the Commandant’s recommended reading list.

Stephen has tons of support from family and friends, including the Operation Stephen Facebook page his grandmother and cheerleader Walla Wallan Dorothy Werttemberger started.

Stephen said in the article he’s motivated by the tradition of the family prayer book.

“I wanted to carry on the family legacy. It’s an honor to do so. If there is a service member in the next generation of my family, it will be passed down to them.”

In terms of the prayer book, Chris Castaldo wrote that “In the midst of World War II, Alfred A. Knopf published the “Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Prayer Book,” with contributions from such prominent generals as Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, and Mark W. Clark.” It included 147 prayers for all faiths andw service personnel.

I can’t be sure this is the same book without looking at it, but Chris wrote about it at . He is currently director of Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

In response to community interest in increasing intercultural understanding and communication through AFS volunteerism, the Walla Walla Valley AFS Chapter will host an open house from 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at Lincoln Terrace, 534 Third Ave., Walla Walla.

Chapter members will match the interests and experiences of those attending with volunteer slots beginning in July 2013 for the following exchange year.

AFS’s local network of volunteers has been involved in and supported more than 100 successful student exchange experiences around the globe in a 30-year period, said Darcy Dauble, chapter chair.

The non-profit international exchange organization for students and adults operates in more than 50 countries. “Community volunteers are the backbone of the AFS organization. Their dedication and support makes it possible for AFS host families and students to embark on life-changing journeys of personal growth,” Darcy said.

Currently, AFS placed the following students in Walla Walla, Waitsburg and Dayton homes: Hannah Grosskopp of Germany; Dea Musliu of the Republic of Kosovo; Takayuki Inoue of Japan; Kiran Noor of Pakistan; Asmaa Ali of Egypt; Sofia Damgren of Denmark; and Thibault Matinelle of Belgium.

The volunteer organization doesn’t advertise. “As a result, people may think the only way to participate is to be a host family.

“In fact each host family and exchange student is supported by several volunteers who lead workshops and orientations, advise students on presentations, interview families, deal with adjustment issues, promote overseas exchange opportunities and help with applications,” Darcy said.

“All these roles provide opportunities to interact with amazing young people who both enrich the high school experience and raise awareness and sensitivity throughout our communities.”

They expect new students to arrive in August, but host families are selected now and exchange students begin to be placed. “It is critical that support volunteers be in place before families and participants are committed.”

For more details, contact Darcy at or 525-1198.

A balmy cruise to the southern Caribbean capped the nuptials for former Walla Wallan Aubrey Anne Ponti Conant and Trent Conant, both of Waterville, Wash.

The couple married Oct. 20, 2012, at the Douglas (Wash.) Church, with John Westerman officiating. The newlyweds’ reception was at North Central Washington District Fairgrounds in Waterville

Currently a child support enforcement officer with Department of Social and Health Services in Wenatchee, Aubrey is the daughter of Greg and Gloria Ponti of Walla Walla. She graduated in 2003 from DeSales Catholic High School and in 2008 from the University of Idaho, Moscow, with a degree in justice studies.

The operations manager for D&P Schmidt Farms in Waterville, Trent is the son of Rick Conant of Wenatchee and Dale and Peg Schmidt of Waterville.

He graduated from Waterville High School in 2004 and Washington State University, Pullman, in 2009 with a degree in agricultural technology and management.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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