Milton Cochran, USMC
See part 1 here.
See part 2 here.
It takes a special kind of woman to choose a man as broken in body and spirit as Milt Cochran: She must accept that the road ahead will be very hard, the days will be long and tiresome, and frustrations will be many. She must look beneath the deep scars and skin grafts and see someone with exceptional needs, and a special spark that makes him completely irresistible. And then she must choose to make him her partner for life.
She will be his caretaker, and he will be her hero.
The year was 1970: As her graduation from West Haven High School approached, Marguerite “Peggy” Mursko’s mother began urging her to apply at the Veterans Administration hospital to become an X-Ray Technician. Soon thereafter, she was a VA Hospital trainee.
One day while she was in the hospital library studying medical textbooks, a dark-haired young man in a wheelchair approached her. He stopped and asked her what she was reading about; “anatomy” was her answer. “That’s my favorite subject,” he replied. They spoke for a couple of minutes, exchanged first names and pleasantries, and he went off to check out his books. Peggy wouldn’t see him again for several weeks, but she waited and watched for his return.
Finally, by chance they met again. They began to spend time together on the fourth floor of the VA Hospital in the orthopedic ward where Milt was quartered. Milt had a transistor radio, and they’d listen to music on it while they looked out of the high window at the lighthouse across the harbor and talked about life and love.
And the other guys in the ward would whistle and kid Milt about how the pretty girls always went to him.
Later on, Peggy would say, “It was in that ward that I fell in love with him, wheelchair and all.”
What followed didn’t take long: the young couple were married in 1972, and lived for a while in Seymour before moving to Arizona where the climate was more agreeable to Milt and his wounds.
And the years and the decades passed: Milt and Peggy became parents, and later, grandparents. And Peggy dutifully tended Milt’s wounds and gave her support as Milt struggled with the nightmares and the PTSD that would haunt him forever. Milt called her his Angel.
In his final years, Milt Cochran contracted a rare form of liver cancer which would take his life in 2015; finally, he was moved to hospice care. As the end neared, Milt told Peggy that he was ready to go, but he wished that he could have just one more year. Through tears she asked him why he would want to suffer for another year. His answer was that it would be worth all that suffering, if he could just be with her for a little bit more.
Shortly thereafter Milt Cochran slipped away, escaped the suffering, and was at peace.
Decorated Combat Corpsman Milton C. Cochran died Sept. 11, 2015 and later was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.