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Interview with Mary Cox [Undated]

C. J. Malone:

My name is Caesar Malone. My interviewer is Mary Cox. We are at Mary's house. Mary is my mom's friend. Mary served in the Army. She was in Desert Storm and she was an E4 Specialist and she was in Germany and Saudi Arabia. Mary, were you drafted or did you enlist?

Mary Cox:

I enlisted.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Where were you living at the time?

Mary Cox:

I was living here in Anderson with my parents.

C. J. Malone:

Why did you join?

Mary Cox:

Well, I kind of wanted to get out of Anderson. I wanted to go to different places.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Why did you pick the service branch you joined?

Mary Cox:

My brother was already -- had signed up for the Army and I took him up to see his recruiter and so I talked to someone at the recruiting office about the Army.

C. J. Malone:

Do you recall your first days in the service?

Mary Cox:

Oh, yeah. Basic training, it was kind of rough because you had drill sergeants screaming at you, and it was kind of hard to get used to having somebody telling you what to do every minute of the day.

C. J. Malone:

What did it feel like?

Mary Cox:

It was kind of scary; didn't know what was going to happen next but once you got used to -- once you got used to your schedule and the people you were around, it kind of -- it got easier.

C. J. Malone:

Tell me about your boot camp and training experiences.

Mary Cox:

Boot camp was kind of rough. Like I said, it was kind of scary because, like I said, you had a lot of drill sergeants yelling at you and telling you to do different things, but after a while you -- like I said, you got used to the people you're around. It was interesting learning all the different training that we had.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Do you remember your instructors?

Mary Cox:

Yeah, I had one instructor in basic training. He was kind of an older guy so we called him papa bear. He was not as tough on us -- on us girls. He was kind of like a -- kind of like a grandpa figure. Then we had another one that was not very nice. He was kind of mean. So we kind of steered clear of him.

C. J. Malone:

How did you get through it?

Mary Cox:

Well, you just kind of group up with some -- with people you make really good friends and you just kind of encourage each other and you just realize that it's not going to last forever. You just try to -- you set your mind at the end goal, and you just work your way through it.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Which war did you serve in?

Mary Cox:

The Persian Gulf.

C. J. Malone:

Where exactly did you go?

Mary Cox:

I went to Saudi Arabia.

C. J. Malone:

Do you remember arriving and what it was like?

Mary Cox:

When we arrived we were all kind of scared because we weren't really sure what it was going to be like when we got off the plane but when we got off the plane we were in this big open field and they took us over to these tents and it was so hot. We landed there on December 7th and it was about -- we got there in the afternoon, about 2:00 in the afternoon. It was about a hundred degrees.

C. J. Malone:

What was your job assignment?

Mary Cox:

I worked and I was kind of a clerk type. I took care of a lot of office work. We were a transportation unit so we took care of a lot of paperwork for the trucks going in and out.

C. J. Malone:

Did you see combat?

Mary Cox:

Actually not up close. We were about 80 miles from Baghdad so we could see some of the bombs going off. It just kind of looked like fireworks, but I didn't see combat up front.

C. J. Malone:

Where there many casualties in your unit?

Mary Cox:

No, there were none.

C. J. Malone:

Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.

Mary Cox:

Well, I think one of them was probably the night there was a lot of bombing going on. It was right after the ground war had started, and I worked third shift. There always had to be someone in my section. There had to be -- we ran 24 hours a day because we were in charge of the trucks going back and forth so I worked third shift. I worked 12:00 midnight to 8:00 in the morning. And we heard some noise outside and I remember telling somebody that sounds like fireworks and we walk-- and over in the distance you could just see it. Just looked like fireworks going off and you could feel the -- kind of feel the ground shake and it kind of made our tent shake a little bit and it just was kind of an eerie feeling realizing that we knew they weren't fireworks. We knew they were bombs going off not to far away from us. It was kind of a really weird experience.

C. J. Malone:

Were you a prisoner of war?

Mary Cox:

No, thank goodness.

C. J. Malone:

Tell me about your experience in captivity and when freed. You weren't. Were you awarded any metals or citations?

Mary Cox:

I think -- I know I got the Southeast Asia Award. That was just one that they gave all the soldiers that were in Desert Storm. I'm not aware of any others.

C. J. Malone:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

Mary Cox:

I wrote lots and lots of letters. I was probably averaging about -- writing about 10, 15 letters a day. We did get to use the phones but it was not very -- it was probably about once every -- about once every two to three weeks and the phone lines were -- sometimes you stood in line for two to three hours to talk for 20 minutes.

C. J. Malone:

What was the food like?

Mary Cox:

It was nasty. I am a very picky eater and we either had -- it was all Army food or unless somebody sent you a goody box with something in it, it was the MREs. They were Meals, Ready-to-Eat. They looked like dog food or baby food. I didn't like it.

C. J. Malone:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

Mary Cox:

Well, it depends on what kind of supplies. Sometimes we did. Sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we had -- our supplies sergeant went out at night kind of scavenging for things.

C. J. Malone:

Did you feel pressured or stress?

Mary Cox:

It was kind of stressful because you weren't really sure -- we were out in the middle of no where. We were in the middle of the desert. You could see nothing but sand for miles. So that's kind of an eerie feeling wondering -- you just kind of think, well, we're not very protected out here you know. It was kind of stressful wondering if, you know, if were going to get -- it was also stressful because of the air raids. We weren't sure, you know, about the chemical warfare. We had a lot of air raids.

C. J. Malone:

Was there something special you did for good luck?

Mary Cox:

I found a rock that was almost in a perfect shape of a heart. I wish I had it but I gave it to my mom when I got home. But I put that in my pocket and I kind of kept that with me --it was kind of like a -- I don't know like a four-leaf clover, whatever. Of course I prayed too.

C. J. Malone:

How did people in your unit entertain themselves?

Mary Cox:

Oh my goodness. We did some really stupid stuff. There was not a whole lot to do out there. We played lots of cards. We played poker. We used to bet cigarettes and candy and anything we had. One guy liked to torture flies. He would catch them and then he would either burn them with his cigarette lighter or he'd put them in a tape case and try to freeze them. I think he was on the edge. He was about ready to lose his sanity.

C. J. Malone:

What did you do when on leave?

Mary Cox:

When I was in Desert Storm we didn't really have any leave so I don't really know -- I don't know the answer to that question.

C. J. Malone:

Where did you travel while in service?

Mary Cox:

Well, when I was in -- I was stationed in Germany before I went to Desert Storm, and I had went -- I travelled to Spain. I went to Paris, and that's about it.

C. J. Malone:

Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual event?

Mary Cox:

Let's see. There was a lot, but I can't really remember one particularly unusual one right offhand. I remember. I don't know. This wasn't in Desert Storm. It was when I was in basic training. When we were qualifying for our weapons and we were in foxholes and the first time I remember being in one foxhole and another girl being in another one. When she -- the first time she shot her weapon it scared her so bad she wet down her leg and she dropped her weapon and started screaming cuz I think she thought she had shot somebody and of course she got in trouble because she made a big deal about everything and that she had wet her pants because it scared her so bad and that was kind of funny.

C. J. Malone:

What did you think of officers or fellow soldiers?

Mary Cox:

You just kind of like anywhere else. Some of them you like and some of them you don't. Some of them kind of -- they use their rank and their authority to, you know, get things that they normally couldn't if they weren't, you know, they weren't -- didn't have that kind of power.

C. J. Malone:

Do you recall the day your service ended?

Mary Cox:

Oh, yeah. I got out of the reserves the day I came home from Saudi Arabia -- the day I came home from Desert Storm.

C. J. Malone:

What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?

Mary Cox:

I didn't go right back to work. I just kind of -- I took like a three month vacation.

C. J. Malone:

Was it -- did you work or go back to school?

Mary Cox:

Well, I did -- I did eventually go back to work, and then I did enroll in school probably about a year later.

C. J. Malone:

Was your school supported by GI Bill?

Mary Cox:

Yes, it was.

C. J. Malone:

Did you make any close friendships while in the service?

Mary Cox:

Yes, I have quite a few close friends. My roommate in Germany was my maid of honor in my wedding, and then I have a couple that I was in Germany with. That was 10 or 12 years ago. I still write them and we talk on the phone. And I have a couple of close friends that I was in Desert Strom with. It's kind of a bond that you don't have with anybody else.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Did you join a veterans' organization?

Mary Cox:

I belong to the VFW, Veterans for Foreign War.

C. J. Malone:

What did you go on to do as a career after the war?

Mary Cox:

I don't know if it's a career. I just -- I went -- I took school for office administration but then I got a really good job at a title company.

C. J. Malone:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Mary Cox:

I can see how -- well, I don't know if I can say I can -- I can kind of relate with other veterans. Desert Storm was not anything like the Vietnam War and my experience was nothing like what they went through but it's something that I will never forget and I can still -- I can still remember some of the things that happen. So I know that like Vietnam Vets -- now I can understand why even 34 years later they are still dealing with some of the things they went through over there.

C. J. Malone:

What kind of activities does your post or association have in the veterans' organization?

Mary Cox:

They do a lot of parades, and they do some fundraisers. I'm not real active in it. I was when I first joined, but I don't do a whole lot now.

C. J. Malone:

Do you attend the reunions or anything?

Mary Cox:

I didn't. They had a 10 year reunion for our Desert Storm unit and I was unable to go.

C. J. Malone:

How did your service and experience affect your life?

Mary Cox:

Oh goodness, that's a tough one. You just learn a lot. You learn to appreciate the simple things. I remember when I got back from Desert Storm I just -- you appreciate a hot shower. You appreciate a nice soft bed or cold water, not drinking water that's the temperature of bath water. It's just the little things you learn to appreciate.

C. J. Malone:

Is there anything you would like to add that we haven't covered in this interview?

Mary Cox:

I can't think of anything.

C. J. Malone:

Okay. Thank you for sharing your recollections.

Mary Cox:

You're welcome.

 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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