Community honors Purple Heart veteran and spreads cancer awareness

Justin Rook passed away on March 7 after battling cancer for about a year. He served in the U.S. Army for 16 years.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:55 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The veteran community honored the life of one of their own Sunday afternoon.

Justin Rook passed away on March 7 after battling cancer for about a year. He served in the U.S. Army for 16 years, completing four tours in Afghanistan and getting the Purple Heart for his service, which is awarded to service members who are wounded in combat.

After retiring, Rook joined the Colorado Springs Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association, becoming a member of a larger group of people with combat experience.

They held the procession for him, along with the American Legion, on Sunday. In attendance was members of the motorcycle group as well as fellow veterans who knew Rook and his family. His mother, Maggie Rook, known by her road name “Mega Mom,” watched as the community came together to honor her son.

“It is a brotherhood, sisterhood, we are here helping vets anytime someone is in need, like Justin’s family,” said Cecelia Smith, a fellow rider in the CVMA. “We said, ‘don’t worry about it, we will take care everything for you,’ and we did. They have much love and support.”

After the procession, which went through Fountain, the group held the ceremony at the American Legion Post 38, where several members of the CVMA and Justin’s family shared stories and poems celebrating his life.

“If he needed to take a shirt off his back and give it to someone he would do that,” said Jose Martinez, a rider who knew Justin for a short time, but said in that time, he left a lasting impact.

“He would be so inviting,” he continued. “He would invite everyone up to his house, he love to cook steak. Last memorial weekend, he threw down some awesome Tamaha hogs.”

But during those get-togethers, Justin was fighting another battle, himself. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, which is a brain cancer.

“We did go to UCLA last May and he had 70% of that removed which gave him more life for a longer time,” said his mom, Maggie. “Then he had an MRI in December and got the results and it wasn’t too happy about that and he planned on going back to UCLA but then he just declined. Rapidly very rapidly.”

His fellow riders said he was resilient, fighting a hard battle and keeping spirits high. However, his mom said the decline was quick, and she will miss her son’s love and support.

“He always called me on Mother’s Day and my birthday. Always,” she said.

Sunday afternoon was all about remembering the joy Justin brought to a tight-knit community, and making a promise to be there for his family.

His family also said that cancer is a prevalent issue that impacts everyone and they could like to see progress made on research to help those impacted by it. You can find more on glioblastomas and donate to help research here.