10:27 PM PST, January 25, 2013
The national anthem is just about to conclude Friday night before the Lakers' game.
Corrie Cox is standing with her hand over her heart with four of her six children by her side, and what a glorious moment.
The anticipation of those watching and knowing what is going to happen next is chilling.
Corrie has no idea, but her maroon beret Airborne husband, Capt. Douglas Cox, who just returned from duty in Afghanistan, is behind her and about to throw a man-size hug around his family.
Corrie's first words to her husband: "Are you home for good?''
Tears everywhere, and that's just from those privileged to watch the homecoming.
"The Lakers are phenomenal,'' says Doug's friend, Andy Howarth, and maybe for the first time all year no one is arguing.
Howarth did termite work for Doug when Doug worked in real estate in Orange County. He remembers his friend wearing a suit and packing paper and pen, but one day he's on Facebook and notices Doug in an Army uniform and holding a weapon.
Howarth is moved. "These guys are over there fighting for us. I want to give back,'' Howarth says.
So he takes a shot and emails the Lakers. Five minutes later, he gets a call from John Black, the Lakers' executive in charge of public relations.
They arrange the surprise reunion.
"I'm nervous. I'm going to be a wreck,'' says the rough-and-tough soldier while waiting for his family to arrive, not worried in the least about the Lakers' problems on the court.
"Hey, no one is trying to kill me,'' he says about his first visit to Staples Center. "So the Lakers are just fine as far as I'm concerned.''
Cox grew up in La Habra, became a real estate broker and civil servant, a husband now for 23 years and father of six — ages 11/2 to 12, including a baby who is 85% to 90% deaf.
Cox is also an Army ROTC reservist, called to active duty at age 49, and shipped off to a death zone a little less than a year ago.
"All of a sudden you're handed orders and told to have a good day,'' he says while pulling out a stack of index cards from a uniform pocket and dropping them on the table. "They represent the 100 guys killed while I was there who I helped put on planes.
"You don't forget that. Every one of these represent somebody's son or daughter,'' he says, while explaining why he still carries the cards. "I can't get rid of them.''
Try to get your hands around that, hard for some maybe to understand, but he says, "It's a calling.
"I couldn't sit back and watch anymore,'' he says. "And it was my time to go, salute and go do your job. That's what I was trained to do. I've got a family, but if not me, who? I love my country, and I had to do it.
"The tough one is my wife. With six kids, her day is like a squad leader on steroids. If there's a medal, she deserves it.''
Corrie laughs. "I won't lie; it's been tough," she says. "People ask me all the time, 'How do you manage?' You're a mother. You just do it.''
Doug is here now on a four-day pass, still needing medical treatment for finger, elbow and shoulder injuries suffered while on duty.
"I have to be back for formation at Ft. Lewis in Washington by 0630 Tuesday,'' he says.
Once his body is repaired he will become a weekend warrior again, while also looking for a job.
"I'm going to go now and spend some time with my family,'' he says, while looking around Staples and joking, "They got a honeymoon suite anywhere around this joint?''
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