By Russell Sellers, Army Flier StaffOctober 28, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Three hundred Soldiers milled around in the early morning haze at the old motorcycle training range across from the Installation Post Office Oct. 22.
All conversation came to an end as the Soldiers focused on the soft-spoken, dark red-haired company commander who reminded them it was because of just one Soldier they all gathered that morning.
WO1 William McCotter, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, had just graduated from flight school here as a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and was on leave visiting friends in Miami, Fla., when terrible stomach pains required an emergency room visit Sept. 20. Three days later, he was diagnosed with Stage IV poorly differentiated gastric adenocarcinoma, an inoperable, terminal stomach cancer.
McCotter, known as "Cooter" by many of his friends and Family, was scheduled to report for duty in Hawaii in mid-October. His diagnosis came just before he was to make a trip to Costa Rica to visit friends, according to his sister, Michelle.
The members of William's training unit, B Co., 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Regt., gathered at the former motorcycle training range across from the Post Office, to conduct a company run in honor of a Soldier no one there had met face-to-face.
Maj. Derek Smith, the unit's company commander, said he was William's commander in his time here, but that not meeting him meant he was "a model Soldier."
"He was never sent to me for any disciplinary reasons and I've only heard good things about him from those he served with," Smith said. "He served two tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, before he came here. When something like this happens, it's a sobering reminder that we don't just lose Soldiers on the battlefield."
Soldiers currently in B Co. may not have met William, but it was important to them to show their support for their fellow Soldier.
"It shows him and his Family that we care," said 2nd Lt. Jennifer Germany, B Co., 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Regt. flight school student.
Capt. Holly Burke, B Co., 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Regt. operations officer, led the organization of the company run and filmed it for the Family.
According to her, those who took part in the company run were not just flight school students and warrant officers, but also included first and second lieutenants, captains and majors.
"We all wanted to do something as a unit to show our support," Burke said. "The company chain of command set it up and we decided to film it to send to the Family."
Michelle has kept a blog since William's diagnosis. She has chronicled his and his Families' experiences through the ordeal so his friends around the world and others can see what is happening.
The experience of being in a hospital everyday has been stressful, she said, but there's more to it than that.
"It's hard to be in the hospital, not really knowing how long we'll be here. In a way, I hope we're here for a long time. I treasure every day I get to spend with my brother, but I don't want to be here for a long time," she wrote in a blog post titled "Uncertainty and Hope," Oct. 18. "I want him to heal quickly, and to be able to move forward in life. He's a Black Hawk pilot for the Army, and he has yet to fly a single mission."
As of Monday, William was still at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Michelle said he is in good spirits and the Family is hopeful.
"He's doing well," she said. "Despite being stuck in a hospital bed because it's too painful and draining to get up and walk, he smiles often."
For more information about William's experiences at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, visit Michelle's blog at http://billy-cooter-mccotter.blogspot.com/.