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My friend Russ (in the hat) and I halfway back from Baghdad to Kuwait before we were shipped home.

I’m with my parents and brother my last day before leaving for the Middle East. My mom had been crying most of the day.

A North Carolina native son grows up fast as a U.S. Marine during the invasion of Iraq By Michael E.C. Gery, Photos by Eric J. Cox

When he was in high school in Asheboro, Eric J. Cox loved motocross racing and thought he could make a career of it. But in 1999, his senior year, his dad lost his job (and family health insurance) when the local Black & Decker plant was sold and its operations ceased. Eric decided to join the Marine Corps instead, not only because he didn’t take well to school, but also because he thought it would please his dad, an Army vet. By fall, Eric was in boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. He had enlisted for five years. At one point, Eric imagined a career in the Marine Corps. He made progress during his assignments, including training in California. He wanted to prepare to attend the Naval Academy and maybe pursue a career in government or law enforcement. But a petty disciplinary action along the way dashed his hopes. He realized the Marine Corps would not groom him as an officer. He was

assigned to Camp Lejeune to work as a mechanic on amphibious assault vehicles. At least he was glad to be back home, more or less. In 2002, it became clear the U.S. government and military were building toward combat action in the Middle East. In February 2003, Cpl. Eric Cox was deployed to join the first wave of “Operation: Iraqi Freedom.” He left the U.S. Feb. 7 via Cherry Point Marine Air

Corps Station. He carried with him an olive drab, Federal Supply-issued log book which would become his daily journal in Iraq. He recorded his experiences because his girlfriend Abby had asked him to write down everything, “good or bad.” They had fallen in love not four months before in Charlotte. He published his memoir “Cpl Cox” in 2009 through his own business, The Charlotte Press. The book contains excruciating detail about his time in Iraq. The detail, however, is not what many of us might imagine of life in a war zone. It’s more like the daily routine of a fun-loving, good-looking, red-blooded 22-year-old American male from North Carolina who happens to be working in a war zone far from home. Eric Cox kept a diary from February 2003 into May 2003 and left June 3 to return to Cherry Point and finally Camp Lejeune. His new book includes not only diary entries, but letters he wrote and received, and thoughts he had while assembling it all into the Carolina Country JANUARY 2010 21

Carolina Country Magazine, January 2010  

Volume 42, No. 1, Jaunary 2010; Max Woody’s chairs; A Marine in Iraq; Helpful tax credits;