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The Edison 64

Local veteran quietly honors those who died

Retired Master Sgt. Edmund Cox recalls his service in Special Forces and his connection to Edison High School in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Retired Master Sgt. Edmund Cox did not know any of the 64 individuals whose names were published in a Nov. 16, 2017, Stars and Stripes article entitled "Remembering The Edison 64."

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the corner of Lehigh Ave. and Eighth St., Thomas Alva Edison High School has the distinction of having the highest casualty rate in the nation during the Vietnam War.

The original school no longer exists as it burned to the ground in 2011.  A small shopping mall now occupies the site. But the 64 students who died are remembered, and a memorial honoring them stands at the entrance to the center.

On the third page of the article is a list of the soldiers, Marines and airmen who died.

"I didn't recognize a name or a face," Cox said as we sat at his dining room table. "Had I been one of them, I could say I was a part of that. I would feel more involved."

That is to be expected.

Cox moved from Goldsboro to Philadelphia in 1952.  Several years later, he entered Edison High School.

"I lived nearby; I used to walk to school," he recalled.

After graduation in 1958, Cox went to work at a sheet metal plant making air ducts for air conditioners and heating systems. But something was missing in his life, and by 1960 he was ready to do something about it.

"I wanted to do something better," he explained. "Besides, my girlfriend had left me, and I wanted to get out of town.  So I joined the Army."

During the next three years, Cox found himself working as a supply sergeant with Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. With his three-year enlistment and one nine-month extension up, he left the Army in December 1963.

"I came home, tried to go to school, but that didn't work," Cox related. He turned back to what he knew best. "I was within a 90-day window to be able to go back into the service, so I did."

Cox was reassigned to his old unit at Fort Bragg. As the war in Vietnam grew, so, too, did the presence of American special operations forces.

"I left in December 1964 and came back in December 1965," remembered Cox.

By then, the first of the Edison 64 had died. The last one died in 1971.

"In the late 1960s, I heard something about it."

Cox continued his service in special operations, retiring in 1989 from then Fort Lewis.

"The Army is a good place to be.  You can improve yourself," he said. "Serving gives you meaning in life; it teaches you to do something, (and) it gives you time to grow up and gain a sense of yourself."

But the Edison 64 are not far from his thoughts.

"I wish I had known one of the 64. I would feel more connected," he said. "But I don't, and to say any more would be like stealing something from them. I quietly honor them."

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