PRESTONSBURG — Not every birthday party features a 21-gun salute.
For Jay Cox, however, such honors are well-deserved. In celebration of his 105th birthday, members of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 18, from Auxier, were on hand to fire the ceremonial shots and play “America the Beautiful” in Cox’s honor. Representatives from the Patriot Guard Riders were also in attendance to honor the man who volunteered to join the U.S. Army and defend freedom as a part of the “Greatest Generation.”
In his over a century of life, one skill Cox never acquired was the ability to swim. On his way to being stationed in the South Pacific, he was aboard the SS President Coolidge when it struck friendly mines while approaching a harbor in Espiritu Santo, and he was forced to ride the waves from rock to rock in order to join the over 5,300 other men who made it ashore.
His life story—coon-hunting as a boy in his native Lawrence County, weathering the Great Depression, fighting to take back Guadalcanal, working in the sawmills and watching all the turmoil that followed throughout the 20th century—is an astounding one. To have lived through it all, and made it to age 105 is an accomplishment Dena Patton, manager of the Prestonsburg VA Clinic, calls “amazing.” To have kept his lucidity and sense of humor, however, is even more impressive.
“He’s truly a VIP,” Patton says. “We love all our veterans, and it’s a privilege to work with them every day.”
Cox married Sarah Spurlock when he returned home from the war, and together they raised 10 children, two of whom were tragically lost in separate events in 1988. Spurlock passed away in 2001.
Cox’s son Millard and daughter Bonnie Moore say they do their best to appreciate their good fortune in having their father still with them. “Sometimes, we take it for granted,” Moore explained. “For us, though, he’s just dad.”
“Dad’s just always been around,” Millard added.