An Officer or a Gentleman?

Last weekend I read Stan Cottrell’s books, in which he describes his admission to college and his failure to become a military officer.

In “To Run and Not Be Weary” he writes on page 21, “I entered Western Kentucky University on a partial cross-country scholarship…I also joined the Marine Corps P.L.C. (Platoon Leader’s Class, the marine equivalent of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). But my short fuse temper exploded one time too many. School fights cost me my chance of becoming an officer.”

On page 58 of “No Mountain Too High” he writes, “…Western Kentucky awarded me a scholarship to run cross-country…”

Beginning on page 60, “While in college, I joined the Marine officer training program and a year later the Marine Corps Reserves…College had many bad moments for me.  One time I got into a fight.  A big, tall, drunken student began yelling at me about marines, calling them jar-heads. He was egging me on to a fight.  I tried to get away, but he chased me.  My daddy had told me, ‘Son, never look for trouble, but be ready when it comes.’  This drunk student caught me, started pounding my chest, and knocked me against a soft drink machine.  Somehow I picked up an empty Coke bottle and smashed it against his face until he passed out.  Winning that fight by beating a guy nearly twice my size earned me a lot of respect….But it cost me.  A few days later I received a letter from the Marine Corps.  It contained my discharge for improper decorum and conduct unbecoming an officer.”

Mr. Cottrell’s daddy is not the only one who dispensed sage advice. My daddy – a career Air Force Master Sergeant with the Military Airlift Command, who served in two wars – told me, “If it doesn’t make sense, you can be pretty sure there’s something fishy going on.”

Mr. Cottrell’s story fails the smell test – it raises more questions than it answers.

If it were truly a case of self defense, why would he have been discharged by the Marines?

And why was Mr. Cottrell –  who claims to have been winning races and setting records since the age of 12, admitted to college on a track scholarship, a cross country athlete, and a marine officer candidate – unable to outrun a guy who chased him who was not only drunk, but big, tall, and almost twice his size?

Mr. Cottrell may or may not have been able to outrun a huge drunk guy, but he can’t outrun the truth.

The more I learn about him, the clearer it becomes that he is neither an officer nor a gentleman.


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