Melinda Wheeler Cooke obituary photo
 
In Memory of

Melinda Wheeler Cooke

December 20, 1949 - April 5, 2014

Obituary


Melinda Wheeler Cooke, 64, died peacefully at her home in Arlington, Virginia, on April 5, 2014. John, her husband of 45 years, was at her side. She had cancer.

At the time of her death, Melinda was Director for Personnel Accounting Policy in the Department of Defense Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Office. Her career in POW/MIA matters began in 1988 in the POW/MIA Office in the Defense Intelligence Agency, where she served as a Research Intelligence Analyst. In 1993, she moved with the POW/MIA Office when it was shifted to the...

Melinda Wheeler Cooke, 64, died peacefully at her home in Arlington, Virginia, on April 5, 2014. John, her husband of 45 years, was at her side. She had cancer.

At the time of her death, Melinda was Director for Personnel Accounting Policy in the Department of Defense Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Office. Her career in POW/MIA matters began in 1988 in the POW/MIA Office in the Defense Intelligence Agency, where she served as a Research Intelligence Analyst. In 1993, she moved with the POW/MIA Office when it was shifted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she remained for the duration of her career.

Early in her career, Melinda collected, analyzed, and organized records from a wide array of sources and created the database on which searches for Americans lost in the Vietnam Conflict were based. She wrote the definitive U.S. Government study on the Government of Vietnam's records of storage of U.S. servicemembers' remains. She developed procedures and helped guide efforts that led to the accounting and recovery of hundreds of U.S. personnel lost in Southeast Asia.

Melinda regularly briefed Department of Defense and White House officials, Members of Congress, and family members of missing personnel on POW/MIA recovery efforts and policy matters. She participated in many meetings with foreign governments and played a critical role in negotiations with the People's Republic of China in 2009 and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 2011, each of which led to breakthrough agreements affording the U.S access to records facilitating the search for Americans lost in the Korean War. She also helped formalize procedures for investigating World War II losses in the European theater.

In 2004, Melinda performed temporary duty in Iraq, assisting U.S. and Iraqi authorities to develop procedures to account for Iraqis missing under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Melinda received the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2001, 2009, and 2012. The citation for the most recent award called her "the Department's subject matter expert for the Defense personnel accounting community."

Melinda also served as an 'Army wife' during John's 26-year Army career. She contributed her time and effort to various military community and soldier support activities at military installations in the U.S. and overseas.

Above all, Melinda was a loving and beloved wife, mother, and grandmother. Even with all her professional accomplishments, her family was the center of her life.

Melinda will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on a date to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the United Services Organization or to the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

In addition to her husband, John, Melinda is survived by her daughter, Sara Cooke Little, of Cheyenne Wyoming, her son, Nathaniel Cooke, of Alameda, California, and five grandchildren