Staff Sgt. Nathan Matthew Cox, 32, of Davenport, Iowa, was born Sept. 30, 1975, to Les E. and Jane M (Corbett) Cox. He had one sister, Hannah, born five years later. He had an interest in reading and politics at an early age, beginning in grade school at Holy Family.1 His mother chauffeured him to the Iowa Caucus to see candidates. Nate attended Davenport Central High School but detested school, despite his intellect, dropping out to get a GED and join the Army.
Basic training was at Fort Benning, Georgia, and not long after, he served three years in Bosnia in the mid-1990s.2 Living conditions there were primitive and land mines were a serious reality. He enjoyed traveling throughout Europe and to exotic places like Budapest in his free time.
After returning from his tour, he worked at Farm & Fleet in Davenport, Iowa, and attended Scott Community College and St. Ambrose University. He had a restless spirit and worked many different jobs and changed career paths sometimes weekly. He worked as a security officer for two years at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport. Nathan was charismatic and could converse on any topic and had a true interest in others. He was a gifted storyteller and could turn mundane events into standup comic routines.
Nathan married Annette “Annie” Volrath Madden on July 15, 2005, in Eldridge, Iowa. They met when they both worked in construction in Georgia in 2001. They had a daughter, Sophia Grace, who was age 5 at the time of his death. Annie brought two of her children to the family, Nichole and Jake Madden.3 Nathan loved to spend time outdoors, cooking for family and friends, sitting quietly with a cup of coffee contemplating life and all its joys, sports, visiting with friends, and just doodling. He was also an avid reader and writer. The things that Nathan loved and cherished most in life were his family. He was a very devoted son, husband, father, brother and soldier.
He reenlisted in the Army in the summer of 2005 when he was 29 and decided to make it a career. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and served for a year in Iraq. He was then stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2008. In less than four years, he rose in rank from E3 to Staff Sergeant.
Nathan was an E-6 staff sergeant of Viper Company (B), 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Blue Spaders, Fort Hood, Texas.4 Its nickname, “Blue Spaders”, is taken from the spade-like device on the regiment’s distinctive unit insignia.5 He was very interested in foreign affairs and wanted to help the people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Known as a leader who took the time to listen to his soldiers, he had a magnetic personality that drew people towards him. Nathan served in the Army for 11 years
In June 2008 the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, including the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.6 In July, Nathan’s battalion was deployed to Kunar Province of Afghanistan. Most of the unit was scattered in small combat outposts throughout the province to include the Kunar Valley, Pech Valley, Watapur Valley, Chapadara, and the Korengal Valley.7 On September 20, 2008, Nathan was killed as a result of an improvised explosive device in the remote Korengal Valley as their truck navigated a steep mountain road. Today, this area is called The Valley of Death. Also killed was 18-year-old PVT Joseph F. Gonzales of Tucson, Arizona.8
Right before the explosion that killed Nathan and PVT Gonzalez, they were laughing with the driver of their truck, Sean Hollins, and the medic, Keith Young, about how their truck was bigger than the road and how they might fall off into the ravine.9 Nathan was in the front passenger seat and PVT Gonzales was behind him manning the machine gun. The only seat left in the truck after the explosion was Sean’s. Sean and Keith were the first men in their company to survive an explosion on that road. Sean suffered traumatic brain injuries and broken ribs. Keith also spent time in the hospital with injuries.
Nathan received many awards during his military career, including the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart, which were awarded posthumously, and given to his wife Annie at the funeral.10 More than 1,000 people attended Nathan’s visitation.11 Nathan was the 68th person with Iowa ties to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003.12 ,
Command Sergeant Major Stephen Blake, Nathan’s commanding officer, spoke at the funeral of his heroism, honor, dedication, resolve, and inspirational leadership. “He became a father figure to his men.”13
Joseph Gonzales, Sr., of Tucson, Arizona, said that his son mentioned Nathan a lot in phone conversations. He idolized him and wanted to be like him.14
1 Much of this came from information provided by Jane Cox and Annie Cox April 2022 for this project.
3 Nathan Cox Quad Citians say goodbye The Dispatch Moline IL 3 Oct 2008 page 6 newspapers.com
8 Nathan Cox Dept of Defense release Quad City Times Davenport IA 23 Sep 20 08 page 1 newspapers.com
9 Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA) 30 Dec 2008 p3 Family learning to live without fallen soldier by Dustin Lemmon newpapers.com
10 Nathan Cox memorial service The Dispatch Moline, IL 4 Oct 2008 page 1
11Nathan Cox Quad Citians say goodbye The Dispatch Moline IL 3 Oct 2008
page 6 newspapers.com
13 Nathan Cox memorial service The Dispatch Moline, IL 4 Oct 2008 page 1 newspapers.com
14 Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA) 30 Dec 2008 p3 Troops say sergeant was an inspiration to them by Dustin Lemmon newspapers.com