94.3 The Dude’s highlighted soldier of the week: Vietnam Veteran Waco Cotney

94.3 The Dude’s Soldier Salute host Ethan Gardner conducts a weekly interview with a local member of the Armed Forces. The current soldier of the week is Vietnam Veteran Waco Cotney. This is a preview of Gardner's interview with Cotney.

Cotney (left) with Gardner after their Soldier Salute interview.

If there were ever a man who put his country before himself, it would be Waco Cotney. A recipient of the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for Valor, Waco’s lineage in South Carolina goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War. His family originally fought as Loyalists in the Revolution, but the Cotney family went on to become proud Americans, and have served in nearly every US conflict since the country was founded.

Cotney is a proud member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the most decorated and longest-serving Army unit of the Vietnam War. When asked about the 173rd Brigade, he replied, “Yes, the fifth Marines went in before us. We came in after and were there for seven years. We were awarded, as well as I can remember, 14 battle streamers, three Medals of Honor, many silver stars and over 6,000 Purple Hearts, just during Vietnam alone.” Though they suffered severe casualties in the Vietnam War, the 173rd Brigade continues to fight honorably in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cotney served as a Combat Medic in the Battle of Dak To for 20 days in November, where the 173rd, along with other supporting units, faced off against more than 5,000 enemy Vietcong forces. While attempting to save the life of his fellow soldier during battle, he was shot in the cheek and shoulder by an enemy sniper. Cotney and his allied forces were completely surrounded, set up a security perimeter, and waited through the night for an allied medical helicopter to arrive the next morning. The battle would claim over 350 American lives and left over 1,400 men wounded. The 173rd Brigade was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their combined actions and bravery during the battle of Dak To.

Tune in to 94.3 The Dude this week to hear more about Waco’s long family history, his experiences in Vietnam, and his profound respect for the men and women who serve our country.

Categories: Columbia, Military, Richland County