Coast Guard-bound North student honored by Sullivan County Commission

Rick Wagner • Jan 24, 2019 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The first-ever Sullivan North High School student to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is on track to reach that goal, part of a life’s voyage that began in his native Vietnam before he was adopted and brought to the United States.

Joseph Cox, 18 and a senior at North, recently was notified that he has received admission to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he will report in July. Following his one-year stint there, Cox, a member of North’s Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, will attend the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, for four years. According to officials at North, which opened in 1980, Cox is to become the first-ever North graduate to attend the Coast Guard academy.

Cox serves as the Commanding Officer of Sullivan NJROTC, leading his unit in drill meets and academic competitions throughout the year. He has been in NJROTC all four years at North, and he was in an after-school program to prepare for NJROTC in eighth grade at North Middle, which is co-located with North High.

“Joe is an exceptional young man who exemplifies his school and community in all that he does with the utmost respect and character,” North Principal Josh Davis said, adding that Cox has made the “Raider Nation” proud.

Cox said he will leave the prep school as an E-2 and then go four years to the academy and will leave the academy as an ensign. He then will serve as active-duty Coast Guard for four years or seven years if he goes to flight school after the academy. “It’s very unpredictable if they need pilots then,” said Cox, who has no aviation experience other than as a plane passenger.

“I give all the glory to Jesus Christ. He made all this possible and created me this way,” Cox said in a Jan. 23 interview.

“My desire to serve my country, I got that very young,” said Cox, who was adopted from Vietnam when he was so young he doesn’t remember much from there. “I wanted to defend it (the United States).”

As for the path to the academy, he said his senior naval science instructor at North, retired Coast Guard chief warrant Officer Chad Lovato, encouraged him to attend a summer introductory program for the academy in July of 2018. He said the value of his acceptance into the program is $23,000 for the one-year prep program and $500,000 for the four-year academy, not counting flight school if he does that.

He said his father, Wayne Cox, served in the Army National Guard before switching to the Navy, where he reached petty officer third class. “He joined (the Navy) just because he saw ‘Top Gun’ with Tom Cruise in it,” Cox said. 

On Jan. 17, the Sullivan County Commission before its meeting honored Cox with a proclamation for his academy acceptance, as well as his contributions to his community and school, including what Davis called exemplary conduct and outstanding leadership skills exhibited on a daily basis.

“He’s known for a while he’s going to go in the military,” Lovato said.

Cox was recently named as “Junior Fire Fighter of the Year” for 2018 by the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department, according to Capt. Tim Bradshaw, who was in attendance for the commission ceremony. In addition to volunteering at the Bloomingdale VFD, Cox holds down two part-time jobs, participates in plays at the Lamplight Theater, is active in North’s cross country and track and service clubs at North.

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