Ross Simpson narrates his time with Gary Cox for WDVM’s Veterans Voices.
(WDVM) — One of the most beautiful spots in Washington, D.C. is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just before sunrise.
The V-Shaped monument of black granite panels with more than 58,000 names carved into them is considered “Holy Ground” by members of the U.S. armed forces who fought and died during the Vietnam War.
Gary Cox, who is known to family and friends as “Buzz,” a nickname given to him by and older sister who couldn’t say “brother,” visits the famous tourist attraction once a year.
Every Thanksgiving since Cox and 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade, captured Hill 875 during the Battle of Dak To in November 1967, the former Army Sergeant gets up before dawn and makes a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from his home on the east side of Winchester, Virginia.
“I get up early and go down to D.C. before traffic begins and visit with my friends on the wall and talk to them; touch their names like thousands of other veterans do,” said Cox.
For years, Cox carried a can of pound cake and a packet of cocoa mix from boxes of Vietnam-era C-rations he saved. They reminded him of his 20th birthday on November 19th, 1967 when he and second battalion clawed their way up the steep hill several times before withdrawing under heavy fire for the night.
“Everybody in the platoon saved their pound cake to give to me and I had planned on covering it with cocoa; making a chocolate covering and putting match sticks in it so everybody could have a piece of birthday cake,” said Cox.
For years, Cox would leave a can of pound cake at the base of the granite panel that contains the names of 87 members of Second Battalion who died on Hill 875, but he doesn’t bother anymore.
“I finally decided that was futile because they are not going to enjoy it,” lamented Cox, yet it still made him feel better and come to terms with their violent deaths. Buzz told me about the last of three soldiers he dragged back to his platoon after they were shot trying to knock out a North Vietnamese bunker during the Battle of Dak To.
“He had a sucking chest wound and I cradled his head while the medic took a cellophane wrapper off a cigarette pack and put it over the hole, because there were no bandages left, no morphine. We had no medical supplies and he ended up passing right there,” said Cox as he showed me the Silver Star Citation he received for risking his life to go to the aid of fallen comrades.
Health problems have slowed down the combat veteran, but Buzz is still active at Misty Morning, a horse farm that he and his wife Nancy operate between Winchester and Berryville.