Kaufman County bridge renamed for Vietnam hero

A bridge at the Ellis-Kaufman County lines was named in honor of Staff Sgt. Robert Cochran.
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Fred Cochran chuckles at what his brother would have thought about the bridge now named in his honor.

“He'd probably turn his nose up,” says the 78-year-old retired lawman. “He never sought the limelight. He never did.”

Friday morning, he was on hand as signs went up naming a bridge at the Ellis-Kaufman County lines in honor of his brother, Staff Sgt. Robert Cochran. His brother died in an ambush in March 1968 in Vietnam. A ceremony will be held Saturday afternoon in his brother’s honor.

The bridge spans the Trinity River just outside the town of Rosser. The Cochran homestead is not far away. They hunted, fished and rode horses out there as boys.

“I think about Bob all the time, and that will just make him more present in my memory,” he says.

Bob Cochran followed his brother into the Army after finishing college. It was in the military that he found his calling.

After his brother’s second combat tour, Fred asked him why he was going back for a third tour.

“He said there's a lot of 18-year-old boys that depend on me,” Fred Cochran says. “He said I can help them survive.”

His brother was wounded three times in combat. For one of those, he won the military’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his actions on Sept. 22, 1967.

According to military records, he was on a search and destroy mission when his unit came under fire. He moved through a “hail of bullets” to help a wounded comrade. He ran out of ammunition and had to reload. He used a grenade launcher and a pistol to attack the enemy’s bunkers.

He was credited with killing four enemy soldiers at point-blank range. He was wounded by fragments from a grenade.

“Heedless of his wounds, he continued his fierce attacks and shouted for the rest of his company to join him,” the records say. “Sergeant Cochran single-handedly destroyed three Viet Cong bunkers with hand grenades while exposed to the lethal enemy fusillade.”

He is described as disregarding his own safety by making himself a target to protect his “advancing fellow soldiers.”

Bob Cochran, 26, died months later in an ambush attack in March 1968. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his actions on the day of his death.

Bob Cochran was a three-time Purple Heart recipient, as well as a recipient of the Silver and Bronze Stars. He earned seven air medals. To get an air medal, a service man has to fly on 25 combat missions.

He was a fierce fighter who once held the record for killing the most enemy soldiers in Vietnam. He was so feared that the Viet Cong put a $50,000 bounty on his head, his brother says.

“He was a warrior,” Fred Cochran says. “He was really good at what he did. In fact, one of the guys that was with him said Bob knew more about Charlie than Charlie. He studied their terrain. He studied their tactics. Every time they would be at a place, Bob would tell them, ‘Look around, you’ll be back.’”

After his brother was killed, an Army colonel came to the family home wanting his brother’s records because he wanted to put him in for the Medal of Honor. He says his father refused the offer.

His father told the colonel that his son didn’t “do it for medals. He did it for his country and just forget the medal and they did.”

Fred Cochran says he received a letter in the mail after his brother’s death. In it, his brother said it would be his last tour.

“He said he wasn’t coming back, and he was right,” his brother says.

Now, every time he drives over the bridge, he will remember his brother, a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“You know all our serviceman are heroes,” he says. “Bob just happened to be one that was in the right place at the right time doing exactly what he needed to do.”

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