According to those that know him, Jimmy Cox is a big man.

According to those that know him, Jimmy Cox is a big man.

A big man in size and strength, but more importantly a big man in heart and character.

Cox has always been a fighter.

A star athlete at Port St. Joe High School in football and basketball, he was known as the biggest man on the field, but also the fastest.

Johnny Linton, an old friend and fellow Vietnam vet, recalls the time that Cox ran all over Jack Youngblood, a future NFL Hall of Famer, when Youngblood was supposed to be the best.

“He (Youngblood) went against Jimmy one night and Jimmy ran for 200 yards, or something like that,” Linton said.

Youngblood went on to the University of Florida and the NFL.

Cox could’ve gone to Florida State, but instead he went into the Navy and to Vietnam.

Cox went to boot camp in San Diego where he was chosen to become a part of the Brown Water Navy, or the Riverines.

Between 1968 and 1972, Cox made several trips to Vietnam, specifically to the Mekong River Delta, and received two Purple Hearts, one when his sleeping tent was hit by a rocket and the second when he was hit by bullet fragments that ricocheted off his gun turret.

He came back to Port St. Joe, where he worked for Gulf Power and was a star on the Rattfield’s slow-pitch softball team.

But now Mr. Cox is in a new fight. The fight for his life.

Cox was exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam and now his body is ravaged by cancer.

But Cox is still fighting.

Fighting for himself, but also for other veterans that are still fighting the effects of a war nearly 50 years ago.

“He’s struggling to stay alive. He’s fighting Agent Orange and the Veterans Administration (VA), in part for himself but also for other veterans,” says Rodney Herring, a lifetime friend of Cox and a fellow Navy vet.

“He’s a childhood friend of mine. I’ve known him all my life, all his life,” said Herring. “Jimmy is part of the whole Port St. Joe experience, and we cling to one another.

“We’re kindred souls, we’re brothers.”

Herring organized a group of friends and fellow veterans to travel to Carrabelle last week to surprise Cox with a lunch. Cox was unaware of the lunch and, upon seeing his old friends, was brought to tears.

“I hate you all,” Cox said jokingly. “I don’t like crying, but these are fine people to do what they have done.

“I am going through some hard times, but they support me and I don’t want to let them down.”

Linton added, “Jimmy (Cox) only thinks about other people, he doesn’t think about Jimmy. He’s a different breed of person. He never talks about himself; he wants to talk about helping other veterans. You don’t see many people like that.”

Cox has been fighting with the VA for other veterans to receive the care they need for the effects of Agent Orange.

Even though Linton went to Vietnam before Cox, and also did multiple tours, he has the utmost respect for the man he calls his friend.

“I always tell him that he is my hero for what he has been through. He will always tell you that he’s not a hero, but he’s walked with some,” Linton said.

His life-long friends have no doubt that Cox will fight his fight with cancer as hard as he fought his past battles in life.

“He does anything. He’s strong. He has a willpower and never has no for an answer,” Linton said.

“He (Cox) makes it all look easy,” Herring says. “For a lesser man like myself, to see someone younger, so much stronger, and more gifted than myself have all that taken away from them really makes a statement to your own personal self-concept.”

Even though Cox like other Vietnam veterans, didn’t receive the proper recognition he deserved when he came home from Vietnam, he doesn’t let that change his convictions.

“I just love my country. I am proud for what I did and I don’t have any regrets. I just wish this world could get itself together and be like it was back when I was growing up,” Cox said.