Milton Cochran was a combat Corpsman with 2/1 in 1967. Milt stepped on a landmine. His right leg was blown off and the rest of his body received severe injuries from the exploding shrapnel. His condition was so poor leaving Vietnam his survival was not expected. But by the grace of God and a strong sense of survival Milt pulled through after three long agonizing years at various military and VA hospitals. He has known nothing but pain and suffering for 37 years. He has faced too many procedures and operations to count. This past summer he faced another round of operations. After all this, his spirit still soars! Milt has the loss of use of his entire right hand and arm and also the loss of use of his entire left leg. Everyday life is a constant struggle, he has more courage than anyone I know. We met while I was a student X-Ray Tech at the VA in West Haven, CT. Milt was one of my patients and it was love at first sight for me! We have been married for 32 years.
I just wanted to let you know the story behind the name on your Wall. Also, another name on your wall, George Gallagher. He was the Corpsman who came to Milt's side when he was wounded. A few weeks later George would die...it's so sad.
I want to thank you for your tribute to these brave and courageous men. Milt was & still is proud that he served with the finest group of men...his Purple Heart license plate reads: DOC 21...
doesn't that tell you something?
Milt wrote for a book 2/1 published a few years ago. You can read the story Milt wrote below.
"Where I Belonged"
By Milt Cochran
When I joined the Navy and became a Corpsman, I had about as much interest in joining some elite military organization as I had in becoming Secretary of Defense. At the time I joined the service, Vietnam was beginning to claim a large percentage of newspaper space. I was content, though, to do my job as a stateside Corpsman, taking care of Navy Dependents, and I would have been perfectly willing to play out my remaining time in the service right where I was, doing what I was doing.
But one, chilly October Morning after returning from an ambulance run, I was told to pack my gear and prepare to be assimilated into the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps? I didn't join the Marine Corps--I joined the damn Navy, for chrissakes!
But my howls for some sort of clarification fell on deaf ears, and so, after intensive field training at Camp Lejeune, I was off to join the 2nd Bn of the 1st Marine Division, somewhere near Danang, South Vietnam. With trepidation that bordered on terror, I was delivered to "H" Company.
Marines being sent to join other Marines is one thing, but a Navy man entering the lair of the Marines was akin to a Marine being thrown into a unit British infantry troops. The only similarity is a common language. Would the Marines accept me? Would I be ostracized for my entire tour? Would I understand anything they talked about concerning everyday operations?
All those Marines had the same training. They knew each others basic capabilities. Combat in Vietnam would be a new experience for all of them, but at least they could take some solace in the fact that the man in the next foxhole had been thoroughly equipped and exhaustively trained. And they shared that intangible element which binds Marines together as if by high-tensile steel...an Esprit De Corps.
I had been with H/2/1 for about 3 or 4 months when something occurred which made clear to me that there is also a bond between Corpsman and Marine.
Up until that time I had never missed a patrol, an all-night ambush, or a full scale operation. I had participated in everything a Corpsman is expected to do. As a matter of fact, due to a chronic shortage of Corpsman, I sometimes had to turn around and go out with another patrol after just returning from one.
I was always there. If something happened, these Marines knew I was just a few feet away. I realized that the close proximity made my comrades feel better. They told me so. Because I was always with them, it didn't dawn on me that this bonding process works both ways. A Corpsman doesn't operate in a vacuum.
On this particular day, we were on an operation in the middle of nowhere. It was our second day in the field, and for those two days I was sick as a dog. I was throwing up and I had the hot-and-cold sweats. To make matters worse, I couldn't go 50 feet without ducking behind a tree to relieve myself. Yet, through all this, I never missed one patrol.
The dawn of the third day broke hot, without so much as a whisper of moving air. I almost had to force my lungs to inhale. Each breath filled my mouth and nose with rancid, dust-filled air. This day found me sicker than ever. My stomach was so tender I couldn't even strap on my cartridge belt. My medical supply bag felt as though it weighed a hundred pounds.
As my squad was saddling up for the day's patrol, I informed the Sergeant that I just couldn't go out with them. This information didn't come as a big surprise to him. He had already noticed how sick I had been over the past few days. Although this would be the first time my squad would go out on patrol without me, I rationalized that they would survive a mere three hours on their own.
Even today, twenty-six years later, I can see them leaving the relative safety of the compound. As always, our point man, Jones, led the way. His cheerful demeanor never betrayed the fact that the point man was always the most vulnerable. If his always-alert eyes ever missed that one little glint of a trip wire, if he lost his concentration for even one milisecond, he would be the first to pay the price--probably with his life.
And I can still see Knowles, our radio man, fall into his usual place in the middle of the squad. You couldn't miss Knowles. He was probably the tallest man in the company. And the fact that his radio antenna projected three feet above his head made Knowles awfully easy to spot--a fact not entirely lost on Knowles. Immediately behind Knowles is where I would be. No, that's where I should be.
As the patrol wound its way along a narrow path, becoming smaller and smaller with every step, I felt my first twinge of guilt. The minute I lost sight of my squad, I began to pace. And I became more troubled as time passed. "How in the Hell could I have let them go out without me?", I kept repeating to myself.
Time seemed to stand still. The minutes ground along as though they were hours. I listened for any sound that might indicate the squad had run into trouble. I had already made up my mind that if I heard anything--a firefight, or the sound of an exploding landmine, I would get to them, alone and running all the way if I had to.
Everyone in camp got sick and tired of me sulking and bemoaning the fact that my squad "should be back by now". At every point I was convinced that if they didn't return in 15 minutes, I would have a total nervous breakdown. I something were to happen to any of those guys, I felt sure that I would be spending the rest of my life in a padded room. I promised myself right there and then that I would never miss another patrol --no matter what happened. As long as I was breathing, I'd be there. As dangerous as those patrols were, I decided that I much preferred being out it the field with my squad. It was where I belonged.
Finally, after what seemed to me to be an eternity, I caught a glimpse of Jones leading the squad home. After a quick headcount to make sure everyone was there, I was the first to welcome them back.
I had come to the Marines an untried entity and these men placed their faith in me from day one. From the very beginning I was "Doc". I was their orthopedic surgeon, their neurologist, podiatrist, and psychologist all rolled into one. I enjoyed the faith these Marines placed in me, but I realized that their respect and my peace of mind could be earned in one way only; by my being with them on the trail or in a firefight, ready to respond to that most dreaded of battlefield sounds...the call of "Corpsman up!"
Now all these years later I can report that I did my job faithfully--although, I'm sorry to say, not completely. Seven months into my tour, I tripped a landmine. Because of the severity of my injuries, I spent years recuperating in several VA and military hospitals. I was discharged from the military totally and permanently disabled.
But up until a landmine ended my tour of duty in Vietnam, I kept the promise I made that day I waited for my squad to come back safely. I never missed another patrol.
The general consensus has always been that Marines feel better having a Corpsman at their side in the field. Take it from me, there is no place a Corpsman would rather be than out in the field with the people he cares most about--the guys he has come to love and would give his life for.
Because of the circumstances under which I left Hotel Company--a group of men whose character and stamina will never be matched--I wasn't allowed the chance to say good-bye nor to relate my pride in them. I am doing that now.
The men of Hotel Company will remain with me forever. I remember all of them. I remember the men who had wounds only they were aware of. I remember those who, even though horribly wounded, resisted leaving when told they had to medevac'd out of the field. And I'll always remember our comrades who, despite everything within my meager power, died in my arms.
Divine Providence by Dr. J. Curtis Kovacs M. D. (Doc Curt)
About Doc Milton Cochran 2/1 Hotel 1967
Last night, 11 October 2012 Lucy and I watched a wonderful movie, The Best Years of Our Lives. This film examined the difficulties of returning so ldiers trying to reenter civilian work and family lives.
It reminded me of a story Ive told over the years:
The number of wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War was so high that President J ohnson wanted to hide them from the populace. These wounded soldiers were returned to the USA and then sent to various government hospitals around the country. They were sent to facilities nearest to their home address.
At Andrews AFB, Washington, DC where I was an Air Force medical intern (1968) most of the active buildings were on the west side of the base. Across the landing strip on the east side of the base were some old previously unused WW II barracks. These were activated to serve as casualty staging facilities. The wounded were cared for until flights to home facilities could be arranged.
We never saw these men unless they had severe medical problems required hospital care. One of these men was a Marine, Milton Cochran.
He had stepped on a landmine. He was in a total body cast except for one arm. The reason for the cast was that both legs and one arm were broken. That arm was minus skin on the inner surface. His brachial artery was simply lying exposed without skin covering. It was the only place we could install IVs. His fever was the reason for his being transferred to the hospital.
There were many windows in his cast where previously identified, infected shrapnel wounds had been debrided (dead tissue cut and cleaned out). We found no urinary or lung infections, but did start broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Every morning for about 2 1/2 weeks the chief of orthopedics, a Colonel, and I would meet ( 5AM ) before surgery and clean all the wounds. WeŒd have to cut more windows in the cast as new spots of pus became evident and clean out the infected, underlying wounds. I want to emphasize that this Colonel never dumped the job on me. He was there every morning, faithfully - even on weekends.
Finally we got Milton Cochrans condition improved enough that he was able to be transferred to a medical facility nearer his home, somewhere in the South.
Obviously Ive never forgotten him. The story has a nice ending.
In 1972 I was in New Orleans for a hand surgery course and at the Marriott Hotel, got on an elevator. At one floor the doors opened and there stood THE COLONEL. Tears started to well and I had difficulty speaking, and I raised an index finger. The Colonel said, Milton Cochran. I recently got a newspaper clipping from his home town and he is doing fine. My relief was mixed with my tears.
Ive searched the Internet over the years and because of your site I was able to connect with Milton Cochran. I think you will like the results.
I am certain he and his wife are surprised that after 46 years I remembered his name. I only remember the name of one other patient from my internship year.
As some of you know, one of my former Scouts a Marine Major provided the first step in find Milton and Marguerite. I spoke with Marguerite on Monday. Milton was asleep. The ravages of his wounds and their treatment has had him confined to a hospital bed for 5-6 years. (I do have their approval of my revealing his condition.)
I called him again on Tuesday, 16 July. That was the 46th anniversary of the day he tripped that land mine. That is why I labeled this email Divine Providence.
For those of you who served our conversation was predictable. He told me he considered the care he got at Andrews AFB saved his life. I responded, I was only doing my job. And it was a privilege. I told him that he was also saving lives as a combat corpsman. You got it. He said, I was just doing my job.
Just this morning I sent this quote to him as a way of saying thank you:
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. ...George Orwell
Now here is another coincidence. Milton & Marguerite live less than 15 miles from our home in Arizona. As soon as we return to Phoenix we will, of course, visit.
I have noticed a little puzzle. For 40+ years Ive wanted to find Milton. I never thought about what comes next. I do know that even if he had lived more than 1,000 miles away I still have visited him.
And, Milton, Maj. Shenandoah Sanchez USMC, called today to make very sure I conveyed to you, Semper Fi.