Ashes of decorated World War II veteran gets buried at Arlington 15-years after his death
A Warner Robins World War II veteran who died 15 years ago was laid to rest recently at Arlington National Cemetery.
James E. Cox, an Army infantryman who lost his right arm to a Japanese sniper, died in 2004. He was 87.
Cox was cremated, but his three daughters didn’t know what to do with the ashes. Kitty LaFountain kept her father’s ashes in her home until she learned last year of a friend being buried at Arlington.
“I started wondering, why haven’t we buried Daddy?” she said. “Why not take the ashes and go to Arlington?”
She called McCullough Funeral Home, which had handled his services in 2004. Even though it had been 15 years, McCullough funeral director Michael McNeal Jr. agreed to help her seek the Arlington burial at no extra cost.
The request was approved nine months later.
LaFountain and her daughter flew to Arlington with her father’s ashes and they had the service on April 11.
Although it was just the two of them, Arlington gave the same service as any other veteran would get, including an honor guard and a 21-gun salute.
His ashes were buried in a new spot overlooking the Pentagon. In a couple of months, he will have a traditional marble white headstone placed there.
“It’s such an honor,” LaFountain said. “Our family can visit. Generations can visit. My grandchildren, when they go visit, there’s Papa.”
Cox served as an Army infantryman and was fighting on Morotai Island in 1944 when a sniper shot off his arm. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
A parade and a salute
He wanted to be an instructor in the Army after the incident, but it wasn’t allowed. He instead went to work for his stepfather at a seafood market in Miami.
That’s where he lived until 1994, when LaFountain brought him to Warner Robins, where she lived, against his will. She says he had been wandering around rough neighborhoods in Miami and she was afraid he was going to get killed.
Cox initially called the police and claimed he had been kidnapped, but eventually he settled into his new life and the city welcomed him.
LaFountain said when a Robins Air Force Base commander met him, the commander asked him what he wanted, and Cox said he wanted a parade.
Cox later was invited to the base and given a small parade, she said. He proudly held a salute the whole time.
A few years before he died, he was featured in the Telegraph about his battle to get additional benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He was in a wheelchair, battling dementia and wanted the additional benefits so that he could live out his final years at home rather than go to a VA nursing home. He eventually received the extra benefits.
“He was such a brave man,” LaFountain said. “I think I got a lot of his spirit from him because I fought the battle with the VA to get the benefits and it was a hard job.”
‘He always wanted to make people laugh’
Later in life, her father told her a story about his war experience that no one knew, not even the Army — he was a prisoner of war for about five hours.
He and a few other soldiers were captured by a group of Japanese soldiers who were so young her father referred to them as “baby faced.”
She said her father told her that the Japanese soldiers celebrated the capture by getting drunk and he and his fellow soldiers were able to get themselves untied.
They got the Japanese soldiers’ bayonets and killed them all, Cox told LaFountain. When they returned to their unit, they all agreed not to tell anyone about it. The youth of the Japanese soldiers bothered him.
“When he told me that story, he cried,” she said. “It was the only time I had seen him cry.”
He suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after the war and people told her that at one time he was mean, but he had changed by the time she came along.
“He was a great person with a sense of humor,” she said. “He always wanted to make people laugh.”
Arlington is a 624-acre cemetery in Virginia for the nation’s war dead. Approximately 400,000 people are buried there.