Hero Marine returns fire

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

Daniel Cotnoir took a shotgun and fired it because he felt threatened. Had Cotnoir's actions taken place at his former duty station of Iraq, his actions on Saturday outside a Massachusetts nightclub would have barely been a blip on the national consciousness.

In Iraq, a country where kids come strapped with bombs and beatific smiles, Cotnoir, named Marine of the Year by the "Marine Corps Times", would have been just in his decision to fire a warning shot over the heads of a crowd of threatening onlookers. It just so happened that these onlookers were waiting to dance and drink the night away, even as one of the revelers crashed a beer bottle through Cotnoir's window, causing the Marine to lash out in anger with his shotgun.

As is, Cotnoir's shot ricocheted off concrete and struck two people. He faces charges of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of armed assault and intent to murder and one count of illegally discharging a firearm. Cotnoir has entered a plea of not guilty and is currently under psychiatric evaluation to see if he is fit to stand trial.

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And is he the last one? The last soldier to return from Iraq or Afghanistan, not physically, but mentally still grasping the stock of an automatic rifle?

Cotnoir himself was treated for post-war stress when he arrived back in the states. His job while in Iraq? He was a mortician. Cotnoir collected body parts of dead US soldiers and prepared them for shipment back home. These were his fellow servicemen riddled with bullets, ravaged by bombs, bloody and slaughtered.

Union General William Sherman once said, "war is hell." One of the truer statements ever uttered. Cotnoir will likely be held up and tried as a criminal by the judicial system, but how can we judge those that fight our battles when we ourselves know nothing of the war they go to fight? We're not in their shoes. We don't know how we would react. It's easy to sit back and condemn when you haven't experienced the heart-stopping tension of a smiling little girl walking towards you carrying a decorative basket. What is it? A gift? A bomb? Shoot or not shoot?

Daniel Cotnoir probably saw more of hell than we will ever see in a lifetime.

So who are we to judge him?

Kevin Pearcey is editor of The Luverne Journal. He can be reached at

335-3541 or

via email at kevin.pearcey@ luvernejournal.com