It's the very simple moments with his children that Sgt. Ross Cox is most grateful for.
He's just glad to be with them. After 10 years and 3 tours in Afghanistan, he returned from war to face a new battle.
"We always say we're willing to die for our country - you never think about coming back without a leg," Cox said.
Cox lost his left leg to an improvised explosive device.
"I'm sitting up and there's a tree above me, and I'm sitting up and I just see my knee pad and all of my gear just up in the tree. He (doctor) says your left leg is gone, and my right leg was broken and blasted out," says Cox.
Getting blown-up in a war can too often mean the loss of limbs and many times, genital injuries that have devastating effects on a soldier.
Horrific as it sounds, for Cox, the blast could've done even more serious damage had it not been for one crucial adjustment Cox made to his uniform four days before the explosion.
“I had on a Kevlar protective outer garment, which is "Kevlar diapers" as everyone’s calling it,” Cox said.
Some call them Kevlar boxers, others refer to them as combat underpants. Either way, the Army’s Pelvic Protection System can prove life-saving for U.S soldiers in combat.
The new system is made up of two layers. Tier one is a protective under-garment known as PUG. It’s similar to bicycle shorts and worn under a soldier’s pants. It stops dirt and fine debris from piercing the skin.
Tier two is the outer-garment or POG. It’s more rigid and gives ballistic protection, preventing larger bomb fragments from tearing into the abdomen and private areas.
“It’s somewhat sobering. We find out pelvic protection worked and saved portions of the colon and reproductive organs,” said Lt. Col. Frank Lozano. “It’s a significant breakthrough in regards to this specific threat. These injuries can be traumatic to a soldier’s wife, especially a young soldier who may have injuries to the groin region and may lose reproductive organs or all of his legs and spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.”
According to the Army, more than 1,400 troops have lost limbs in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of those who have lost legs also suffered injuries to their genital areas. But since the PUGS were put to use in June of 2011, the number of those injuries has significantly dropped.
Cox knows it made all the difference, despite being a little skeptical when he was first told to wear it.
“You pick it up and it’s a diaper. It goes over your front, it goes over your back and I just don’t suggest you go to the bathroom in it,” Cox said humorously.
He doesn’t mind joking about it because at the end comes a serious punchline for all servicemen and women serving in war.
“I’d like to say it really saved me from coming home with a colostomy bag,” Cox said, “I believe that it should be a vital piece of equipment that no one should go anywhere without.”