April 24, 2014

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The Cottrells – Memorial Day Profile

WELLINGTON — The Vietnam War took more than 58,000 lives. Two of those lives were from one Wellington family, the Cottrells.
Connie Cottrell was only 15 years old when she was aroused from her sleep by a knock on the front door of the Cottrell family’s home in Wellington in August 1968.
“It was about 11 o’clock and I saw a soldier standing there. I’m not sure if he was an officer; he had on a uniform,” Cottrell recalled.
The late-night visitor informed her parents, Roy and Mary Cottrell, now deceased, that their 19-year-old son, and Connie’s brother, Army Sgt. Timothy James Cottrell, had been killed by hostile gunfire in Binh Long, South Vietnam.
Then, on an October afternoon three years later, Connie was home alone when “another Army guy pulled into the driveway.”
“My mother and Sid’s wife were at work, so I had to take the soldier to their place of employment. Then, he told us. I then had to take him out to the field where Dad was working,” she said.
The message the soldier had to personally deliver was that the war had claimed 21-year-old Army Spec. Sidney Allen Cottrell, who was a husband and father of a 2-year-old daughter. He had been killed by an explosive device in Quang Nam, South Vietnam.
Dwight Cottrell, 59, of Wellington, recalled working with his younger brothers on the family farm.
“We worked together, went to school together and did all the usual things brothers would do,” he said.
Since Tim had a low number in the draft pool, he figured he might as well enlist in the Army; he would be drafted soon, anyway, Dwight Cottrell said.
According to Army records, Tim’s tour in Vietnam began Dec. 5, 1967. He was killed on Aug. 27, 1968.
“My dad was in World War II,” Connie said. “He was stoic, although I did see him cry. I think there was some anger there, but not because of the war; because of the fact they died. My dad didn’t talk a lot about it,” Cottrell said.
Mary Cottrell took the death of her sons “really, really hard,” Connie said. “I don’t think she ever recovered.”
As a student at Wellington High School, Tim Cottrell was captain of the football team and was well-liked by his classmates, who nicknamed him “Bear,” Connie said.
“I think of Tim as very funny, considerate and kind,” she said.
She described Sidney as being “a little character.”
“When he was a teenager, he’d stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘Oh, Sid, you’re such a handsome devil.’ That was his personality,” Cottrell said, choking back tears. “I think of them a lot.”
Even though Sid had a young family of his own and had been granted an exemption from the draft, he still insisted on enlisting in the Army after Tim was killed, Connie said.
“I think he wanted to get even,” Connie said.
Sid’s tour in Vietnam began June 21, 1971; he was killed Oct. 4, 1971.
The Cottrells were honored for their bravery — Tim was awarded two Bronze Star medals and a Silver Star; Sid was awarded a Bronze Star with Oakleaf cluster.
Connie said Sid’s widow eventually remarried. His daughter is now married with three children in Berlin Heights. She named her oldest daughter Sidney, after her late father.
Even though she lost two brothers, Connie said she never felt anger or resentment.
“I just always felt proud of them for serving their country,” she said.
But, if the draft were reinstated, she’d be inclined to take her 18-year-old nephew, also named Tim, to Canada rather than see him go to Iraq.
“I can’t take any more,” she said. “It’s not that I’m opposed to Iraq, I just couldn’t take any more.”
Contact Bette Pearce at 329-7148 or bpearce@chroniclet.com.