Seventy-two years ago Monday, American forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day.
Armed with nothing but some medical supplies and an armband signifying he was an Army medic, Hubert Cox of Derby, now 91, stormed Omaha Beach with the first wave of soldiers. At the time, medics did not carry guns, Cox said.
Cox said it was “like hell” when the doors of the ship opened and the soldiers advanced onto the beach. They went through water up to their shoulders before landing on the beach, where they met with flying bullets.
The soldiers landed at 7 a.m. on June 6, 1944. Cox’s job as a medic was to give first aid to wounded soldiers on the front line before they were taken back to a hospital for care, he said.
At 12:30 p.m., Cox was hit by a mortar. Since that historic day, he has received two Purple Heart medals – one for each time he was wounded in battle – and a Bronze Star for his heroic achievement. The medal Cox said he is most proud of, though, is his Combat Medical Badge, which signifies that he performed medical duties during combat.
Cox, who is from Rose Hill, now lives at the Derby Health and Rehabilitation Center with his wife, Lorraine, though his caretakers say all they really do for him is his laundry.
“He doesn’t need to be here,” Leah Shivers, nurse assistant, said of Cox. “He could live independently at home, but he’s here because he wants to be with (his wife).”
A reception in honor of Cox and other soldiers who served on D-Day was held Monday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7253 in Derby. Coleen Middaugh, Cox’s daughter, brought old pictures of Cox, along with his medals, and several family members attended.
Carol George, vice president of operations at the Derby Health and Rehabilitation Center, said the reception was a “Second Wind Dream” for Cox. Second Wind Dreams is an organization that grants wishes to seniors, George said.
Cox’s dream was to go back to the beaches of Normandy, but the center was not able to set up a trip. Instead, the center organized the reception.
“It’s about appreciating all those guys that were there with (Cox) that day,” George said.
George said Cox had mentioned to her that he didn’t think young people really knew the intensity of World War II and the sacrifices the men made.
“So (Monday was) planned about thanking him and the other men who fought with him to say thank you for everything you did,” George said. “We do know what sacrifices you made, (and) we want to acknowledge it.”
Shivers said Cox does not talk much about his time in the service, though he does talk a lot about his wife and two daughters.
“I know he feels commended for his time, but I don’t think it was a very fun time, so he doesn’t really look back on it a lot,” Shivers said. “But Lorraine is definitely something he’ll always talk about.”
Cox met his wife shortly after he got out of the Army. The couple married on Jan. 13, 1946.
“He takes good care of her,” George said. “We should be blessed to have as good a husband as Hubert.”
Cox said that before he joined the Army, he had been outside of Kansas only once – to Oklahoma.
“A little old town-boy goes in the Army – it’s a big world, big, big world,” Cox said. “You meet all kinds of people.”
Middaugh said Cox’s experience was similar to that of most men in the Army during World War II.
“They were all in the same boat ... all (the) young men, never been anywhere, and here (they) were, kind of tossed into everything,” Middaugh said.
Looking back on the day, Cox said he is happy.
“I’m happy to be an American,” Cox said. “I’m happy I could serve in the service.”
Morgan Bell: 316-268-6514