Sterling Edward Cox

First Lieutenant
Army of the United States
27 March 1941 - 15 January 1969
Knoxville, Tennessee
Panel 34W Line 006

Army Aviator

DFC, Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Sterling E. Cox

The database page for Sterling Edward Cox

28 Jul 2001


My Father- You were a soldier.
Your Son- I was a child.

I'd watch you shine your boots at night, we'd talk and laugh a while.
I never knew the meaning behind that perfect shine.
You always did an excellent job and never seemed to mind.

When you left on that beautiful day, you kissed us and said goodbye.
You hesitated as you walked away to board your plane and fly.

I wish I had known at that moment what was soon to be.
I'd cried and screamed and told you I love you down on bended knee.

On that stormy morning, I knew it was something bad.
The car pulled up with soldiers, but I never saw my dad.

You told me when we parted; I'd have to be the man.
With the principles and love you left me, I've done the best I can.

Thirty-eight years have dwindled by; I'm not sure where they went.
I'll always remember you, father, because you were heaven sent.

After I see God, I hope to shake my loving father's hand.
I love you dad, I hope your proud to see your son, the man.

Your loving son,       


I want you to know that I am very proud of you and that we love you and miss you more with each passing day!


29 June 2002

This memorial is submitted by the family of WO1 James B. Petteys as a tribute to him and to 1LT Sterling E. Cox. It recounts the events surrounding their deaths as taken from US Army correspondence received by both families.

"On the afternoon of 15 Jan 1969, First Lieutenant Cox and Warrant Officer Petteys were flying an AH-1G Cobra gunship on a reconnaissance mission providing air support for elements of the 4th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. 1LT Cox was the aircraft commander and leader of the aerial weapons team and WO Petteys was the pilot/gunner of the aircraft. At approximately 4:20 pm, after hours of concentrated search, the aero-scout elements reported a number of heavily used trails leading to a reinforced bunker complex. After receiving clearance and firing into the position, the aero-scouts radioed that they were receiving a heavy volume of enemy automatic weapons fire. Without hesitation, 1LT Cox and WO Petteys drew the enemy's fire to themselves and away from the vulnerable scout helicopters by diving their aircraft at the source of the ground fire and engaging the position with rockets and minigun fire. Their aircraft sustained disabling hits which prohibited recovery from its last dive. Even then, they continued to saturate the enemy bunker area with minigun fire until their helicopter exploded in flames and plunged to the ground. Both men died instantly upon impact."
Submitted in loving memory by the Petteys family.
Lloyd Petteys, Jr.
17 Oct 2005

I am the widow of Sterling Edward Cox. He was a wonderful husband and father. He was an honor graduate of OCS in 1968 and an honor graduate of both flight schools. He spent two tours in Vietnam - 1964 and 1968 - and he was stationed at Pleiku both times.

We had been in love since we were 14 years old and he was the wind beneath my wings.

He would be very proud of his two sons, Michael and Sean Cox, as we are proud of him and all the guys who have served their country.

I have since married another veteran and he honors Sterling's memory with us and helped me raise my sons. I will always have him in my heart.

26 Dec 2006

Merry Christmas, Darling. I still miss you and always will. Tiger

From his wife,
Joyce Cox

E-Mail will be forwarded by the

The Mission

Two men of C Troop, 7th Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry, died when their AH-1G COBRA (hull number 67-15651) was shot down: The gunship had crashed on a heavily forested slope. Other men of C Troop were promptly inserted to rescue Cox and Pettyes. After working their way through the jungle to the crash site, they found both crewmen dead. They removed the bodies in order to carry them back to the landing zone.

While enroute to the LZ, the rescue forces came under heavy fire and in short order were surrounded. In the ensuing fight, PFC Garfield Langhorn distinguished himself by covering an enemy hand grenade with his own body in order to save his comrades from death or injury.

Garfield Langhorn was the only one of the rescue party who died. His body, together with those of Lieutenant Cox and Warrant Officer Petteys, was brought out by the other men of C Troop.

Delta Company, 2/35th Infantry, had been inserted in support of the Air Cav troopers; they too lost a man: Sgt Steve R. Reiser, a medic with D/2/35. In addition, they had 10 men wounded.

LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND - artist Joe Kline

"LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND" by Joe Kline, 101st Abn Div
Published by Americana Historical Art
Used with permission of the artist.

Joe Kline, himself a helicopter crewman with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, captured the intentions of the troopers of C Troop, 7th Sqdn - to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND - and they didn't. On 15 Jan 69 they held their ground and brought out their dead and wounded.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his son,
Michael Edward Cox

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 Jul 2001
Last updated 02/24/2007