European spotlight: Army Maj. Thomas Cox
Have you always wanted to go into broadcasting?No, actually. I came from the 1st Armored Division in Giessen and then (AFN Europe) when Giessen closed. When they said “You’re going to AFN,” I laughed right into the phone. Then I apologized to the personnel manager for laughing like that. I would have never envisioned myself doing this.
So you didn’t have any broadcast experience before coming to AFN?No.
What has the learning curve been like?Going from the pulpit to the microphone is a big change. But the staff here has a lot of experience. They’ve given me some great tips. At first it’s really strange speaking into a microphone. Some people put up a photo of their wife (while broadcasting in the studio) so it’s like they’re talking to their wife while they’re on the air. I take my wooden calendar stand with me to read from. I don’t know what it is but I do a whole lot better with it. I’m not so rigid. Whatever works, right? Of course I walk out of the studio and people say, “You’re carrying your pulpit with you, chaplain.”
What’s the biggest difference between preaching in church and the broadcast ministry at AFN?When you’re preaching in church you’ve got a lot of time. But on the radio you only have a few minutes. You’ve got to focus your point. It’s difficult, especially when you’re talking theology. It’s hard to encapsulate anything like that in a two-minute segment.
As a Christian chaplain, how do you tailor your message to appeal to people of all faiths?People don’t have a choice because it’s on the radio; so I can’t just talk about the cross. It’s more of an inspirational message. I try to get people to think about something beyond their daily routine. I try to tell stories that appeal to everyone. I realize I can’t be rabbi to a Jewish person or an imam to a Muslim but I think people can frame my message within their religion. And if that helps bless them in some way I think that’s a good thing.
What do you hope people take away after hearing you on the radio?Basically that God loves them and that he’s much more in our lives than the world realizes. That’s what I shoot for … Our military is going through a trying time. We’re fighting an enemy in two different countries and we’re in transition. The needs of the community dictate what we do. I try to have a positive impact on soldiers and their families.
Where do you get your inspiration?That’s the work part of it. I’m always on the hunt for a good story. You have to have spiritual discipline and that’s tough in the busy world we live in. I’ve been in the military for 20 years so I’ve read a lot and will go back to books and magazines for stories that can inspire us all.
Army Maj. Thomas Cox
Title: U.S. Army Europe/AFN chaplain
Interview conducted by Charlie Reed.Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to: firstname.lastname@example.org