By Dan Shine
Milton C. Cochran, USMC
Antoinette “Toni” Cochran awoke suddenly; she sat bolt upright in the darkness and shook her husband: “Bus, Bus, wake up! Something terrible has happened to Milt. I don’t know how I know this but I’m sure of it! What do we do?”
Call it mother’s intuition, call it what you will; but Milt’s mother was correct. Halfway around the world there had been an explosion which would bring destruction, death, loss and love into Milt’s life.
“Shy and quiet most have found; but still we know when Milt’s around.”
Seymour High School Yearbook, 1964
Born Jan. 6, 1947, Milt Cochran grew up in a loving family with two brothers. He was an average student, but he excelled at baseball; as the years went by, his pitching skills became well-known up and down the Housatonic River Valley. Colleges and professional teams began to take an interest in him; scouts had their eye on him. The future was bright for Milt Cochran.
The human body is strong, yet fragile. The rigors of pitching every high school game of his senior year began to tell on Milt; his shoulder began to separate, and it became clear that as a baseball player he was finished.
What should he do next? Milt sat around the kitchen table with his father and uncle and discussed the matter. Both were World War II infantry veterans, and advised Milt to join the Navy. He would be on board a ship, they said, and he’d be safe. Yes, that sounded like a good idea, so Milt enlisted.
The Navy made him a Hospitalman, possibly because they knew he had worked at Griffin Hospital. Milt received his training, and was then assigned to the U.S. Sub Base in Groton, Connecticut. He would have been content to have stayed there indefinitely, but fate had very different plans for him.
One chilly October Morning after returning from an ambulance run, he was told to pack his gear and prepare to be assimilated into the Marine Corps.
Milt was astounded: He had joined the Navy to be on a ship, not to be a Marine, as he told anyone who would listen. But his protests fell on deaf ears, and so, after intensive field training at Camp Lejeune, he was off to join the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, somewhere near Danang, South Vietnam. With trepidation that bordered on terror, Milt the would-be sailor was delivered to “H” Company and became part of the ground forces.
Milt quickly became aware of the strong bond that exists between fighting men who face death on a daily basis. He also gained an understanding of the powerful bond that exists between the Marines and their medical corpsmen.
And finally, he came to the realization that combat corpsmen bleed and die just like the men that they care for; in fact, he discovered that those corpsmen were prime targets, singled out for death by the enemy. But like his fellow corpsmen, Milt was loyal to his men, and never hesitated to go out on a dangerous patrol, or to go out under heavy fire, whenever he heard the call, “Corpsman up!”
Milt was supposed to serve a thirteen-month hitch in Vietnam; that hitch was cut short after seven months that seemed like eternities in themselves.
To be continued-