CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan. -- MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – While driving on the narrow roads of Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 8, 2018, Master Sgt. Kevin O. Cochran, a 23-year Marine veteran, noticed an overturned white compact van on the shoulder of a heavily trafficked road.
The intersection where the van lay is joined with Route 58, one of Okinawa’s busiest roads.
“The first thing I noticed was that the car wasn’t burning or anything like that,” said Cochran, a Dayton, Ohio native. “I didn’t see any leaks or other hazards, I just noticed two old ladies trying to help a man out of the car—they just couldn’t open the door.”
Drawing from his experience as a U.S. Marine, the Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran couldn’t help but intervene.
“Someone needed to stop the traffic, so I got out of my car and started directing traffic until someone else could help me,” said Cochran. “A civilian came and stopped the traffic with their car so I called [the Provost Marshall’s Office] and the Japanese police before I jumped on the van and pried the passenger door open.”
Even though the van caught the attention of a few good Samaritans, they were careful to watch for traffic so they didn’t injure themselves.
“The curve that he was on was really dangerous,” said Cochran. “I take it every day and I never really see what’s in front of me, all you’d be worried about right there is looking over your shoulder so you can merge into traffic.”
Although the Okinawan national emerged from the vehicle with only superficial injuries, Cochran’s intervention in the situation may have prevented something more serious.
"I’ve known [Cochran] for a long time," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Corey Croom, operations chief, 1st MAW. "I’m not surprised that he would stop to help that man."
While most of Cochran’s accomplishments don’t quite involve pulling people from vehicles, his Marines hold him in high regard for his selflessness and dedication to duty.
Being one of the first Marines to be awarded the Military Outstanding Service Medal, no cause was too small for Cochran to give his time to.
Starting with coaching children’s basketball in 1996, Cochran’s devotion to volunteering led to years of participating in programs such as Big Brothers and Sisters, coaching various children’s sports, and fundraising efforts for breast cancer treatment.
“In the time that I’ve worked with him, I can tell you that he’s a great person,” said Cpl. Akyng Franklin, a ground training noncommissioned officer-in-charge with 1st MAW. “He’s a family man. He cares about his family, cares about his Marines, and all the people around him.”
After 23 years of service, nearly nine of which was served in Okinawa, Cochran is now preparing for his retirement.
Cochran intends to instruct a Junior Recruit Officer Training Program in Hawaii after his end of active service. Having just purchased a new utility uniform regardless of his upcoming retirement, Cochran is and always will be dedicated to living his life as a Marine.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” added Cochran. “I’m going to continue being a Marine until the day I die; continuing to have the good character and a sense of always helping one another.”