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Iowa National Guard soldier dies while swimming at beach near Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

A member of the Iowa National Guard died Tuesday after being swept away by a current while swimming with other service members at Cable Beach near Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB,) also known as GTMO.

According to a media release from the Iowa National Guard, Pfc. Matthew A. Cox, 19, of Leon had been swimming with four other service members when he was “overpowered by the strong current.” A search for his body commenced that day and continued into the next involving members of all military services, including the U.S. Coast Guard, fire, law enforcement, and medical first responders from NSGB, Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay and Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO.)

The search was called off when Cox’s body was found on Wednesday, Oct. 17. The four other service members with Cox at the time of the incident were not injured, according to the release.

Cox was stationed at NSGB as a member of the 186th Military Police Company, Iowa Army National Guard based at Camp Dodge in Johnston, according to the release. He was deployed to Cuba in support of JTF-GTMO at the time of his death.

“This is indeed a sad day for the Iowa National Guard. The loss of a Soldier under any circumstances is difficult. My heart aches for Matthew’s family as well as the Soldiers he served with in the 186th MP Company,” Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, said in the release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cox family and his fellow Soldiers. We will do everything in our power to assist them during this difficult time.”

An investigation is underway into the incident, according to the release.

According to the release, Cox was born in Des Moines on July 28, 1999. He was homeschooled, completing his studies in May of 2017, and he was active in the Civil Air Patrol, Des Moines Police Explores and enjoyed farming near Leon with his grandparents, Fred and Linda Cox. He was also a member of the 1st Baptist Church in Urbandale, where he was involved in the children’s ministries.

Cox enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard on October 11, 2017, according to the release. He attended Military Police One Station Unit Training graduating on June 7, 2018. He deployed to Cuba in July, 2018. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Cox is survived by his parents, Jason and Beth Cox, and brother, Mark Cox, all of Hartford.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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