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A positive orientation

Finishing high school during the height of the Vietnam War, state Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, believed that military service would be a certainty in the coming years.

In 1967, he began college at the former Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg where he chose to participate in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

“Since I was going to be in the military,” said Cox, 63, “I figured I would go in as an officer.”

He went on to graduate with a political science degree in 1971, also receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.

As Cox explained, at that time ROTC participants were only required to complete a two-year commitment in the military following completion of the program.

The newly-minted officer attended his initial officer training in Augusta, Ga., becoming qualified as a signal officer.

Throughout the training, Cox noted, he was introduced to “new, modern communications” that he said was technology developed by the military and which later became the modern equivalent of cellular phone technology.

“But it was many years later before I ever had a cell phone,” he chuckled.

Cox then traveled to Fort Sill, Okla., where he received training as a communications officer, learning various aspects of leading his own section within a military unit.

Upon completion of his advanced schooling, Cox received orders in May 1972 to report to Korea as a platoon leader with 304th Signal Battalion, which was part of the 8th Army-the commanding unit of the military forces in South Korea.

“If the 8th Army were to have gone to war,” Cox said, “the (signal units) would have been in charge of communicating to subordinate units all over the peninsula.”

During his 13 months overseas, Cox had the opportunity to work with “very sophisticated communications devices” in locations throughout the country while participating in field exercises and training maneuvers.

However, in June 1973, he was transferred to the U.S. Military Academy in New York to help train second-year students in the specialized field of military communications.

Although his required service commitment was scheduled to end that October, the Army released him a couple of months early when he was accepted into law school at the University of Missouri in the fall of 1973.

The year following his return to Mid-Missouri, Cox enlisted in the Missouri National Guard becoming a communications officer with an artillery battery in Sedalia, and continued to serve until 1979, at which time he chose to focus on his professional endeavors.

He graduated with his juris doctor degree in 1976, and soon began his entry into public service when he was elected as the prosecuting attorney for Pettis County in 1978.

“It was a pretty smart move for a young lawyer who didn’t know much,” Cox grinned. “It was a good experience,” he added. “I tried — I believe — 40 jury trials in four years.”

Cox went on to serve on several commissions and boards, and was able parlay both his legal and military experience into service at the state Capitol when, in 2005, the seat for the state’s 52nd District became available.

“I’d always wanted to be a state rep,” Cox said, “but prior to that I had small children and I didn’t want to miss out on them growing up.”

First elected to the General Assembly in 2006, Cox has been reelected for three successive terms and will be term-limited out at the end of next year’s session.

With a cursory glance back on his history of public sector service, a journey which began in the Army, the married father of two believes his time spent in the military provided him with basic principles applicable in all areas of his professional career.

“My first real adult job was being a platoon leader with the 304th Signal Battalion (in Korea),” Cox said. “Not only did this experience help me learn to work together with people from diverse backgrounds, it helped orient me to the concept of public service.”

With a momentary pause, Cox added, “I would certainly recommend the service to others because I think it helps orient a person toward a positive direction in their life even if they decide not to make a career of it.”

Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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