Thursday, March 17, 2011

Details for the Funeral

Hello everyone. We thought it would be helpful to share details for Billy's funeral and related events.  Anyone is welcome to join us for any of the following events.

In Memory of WO William McCotter

Billy's Viewing
Monday, March 28, 2011
Murphy Funeral Home
4510 Wilson Boulevard.
Arlington, VA 22203

Billy's Funeral
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA

Billy earned the privilege of having a full honors funeral and burial in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).  General information regarding funerals at Arlington can be found here.

The ceremony will begin at the Old Post Chapel.  Information regarding the full honors chapel service can be found here.  (Note:  These are instructions written for the religious officiant, but they are generally helpful for everyone who will attend.  Also, if you click the links, you will see diagrams which are helpful if like visuals.)

After the chapel service, everyone will process to the graveside for an in ground burial service.  Billy will be buried in section 60, which is quite distant from the chapel, so you may wish to drive to the graveside.  A map of ANC can be found here.  (The chapel can be found on the upper right portion of the map, and section 60 is in the center, toward the bottom.  Information regarding the full honors procession and graveside service can be found here.  (Note:  Again, these instructions are written for the religious officiant.  Also, the acronym OIC stands for "Officer in Charge.")

A note on time...  Every day, there are a large number of funerals in Arlington.  The funeral service will start promptly on time, and will proceed quickly.

A note on gates and security...  Arlington National Cemetery is a military installment.  As such, there are procedures and expectations regarding security, and your vehicle will receive an inspection when you enter the base.  If your vehicle does not have a DoD (Department of Defense) sticker, enter Ft. Myer via Hatfield Gate or Wright Gate.  You will need a government-issued ID for every adult in the vehicle.  Allow plenty of time for the inspection.  If you are planning to join us for the reception following the funeral, be sure to get a funeral pass from the guard so that you can return to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.  (Note:  Passes are color coded; they are only good for the day they are issued and must be returned to the gate guard upon re-entry.)  Then, ask the guard at the gate to direct you to the Old Post Chapel.  

Hosted by the McCotter/Bohren Family
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Ft. Myer Officers' Club
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
(Hors d'Oeuvres, Beverages, and a Cash Bar)

Cooter's Memorial Bar Tour
Organized by Nate
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Including the following locations:
The Front Page
Tortilla Coast
Cantina Marina
The Rocket
McFadden's or Murphy's
...more to follow
**Look for the event on Facebook.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Billy's Obituary

I thought I'd share the link to Billy's obituary.  It printed today in our hometown newspaper.


William Joseph McCotter Bohren
Article Last Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 12:03am

Durango native William Joseph McCotter Bohren died after a three-month battle with gastric cancer Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Known as “Billy” or “Will McCotter,” he was born to Jill and Mike McCotter on Oct. 14, 1984, in Durango. His father died when he was 21 months old, and his mother remarried to Ken Bohren, who later adopted the four McCotter children.

Mr. McCotter attended Needham Elementary, Miller Middle School and Durango High School, graduating in 2003. While growing up in Durango, he worked for Mama’s Boy Restaurant, Walmart and Servicemaster Cleaning.

Mr. McCotter enlisted in the Army after graduation. As a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, he deployed to Iraq on a nine-month tour in 2003 and received a Purple Heart for a combat wound. Shortly after his return to the U.S. in 2004, Mr. McCotter deployed again, for three months to Afghanistan.

In January 2005, he transferred to the Old Guard and served as a squad leader in Alpha Company, where he received a Meritorious Service Medal.

After four years with the Old Guard, he transferred to Fort Rucker, Ala., was promoted to warrant officer and entered flight school. On Sept. 2, 2010, he graduated as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot. Mr. McCotter planned to take leave and then transfer to a unit in Hawaii. Because of the onset of his cancer, he never flew a single mission, and he never made it to Hawaii.

“Billy’s family and friends knew him as a caring listener who paid attention to details,” his family wrote. “He loved having fun and somehow managed to pull off quite a few surprises. ... He was just good at what he did.”

They said friends from the Army describe him as a leader, friend and role model.

Mr. McCotter is survived by his parents, Ken and Jill (McCotter) Bohren of Durango; brothers Chris McCotter and Danny Bohren, both of Durango, and Robert “Bobby” McCotter of Loveland; sister, Michelle McCotter, of State College, Pa.; one nephew; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

A memorial service will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, in the gymnasium at Durango High School. The Rev. Mark Lawson will officiate.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 28, 2011, at Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Va. An Old Guard funeral with full military honors will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial or funeral contributions may be sent to the William McCotter Memorial Fund, Vectra Bank, Durango Branch, 1101 East Second Ave., Durango, CO 81301; or a PayPal account at

Visit for more of Mr. McCotter’s story.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More Ninja Stories

Sometime in October, I posted some stories about Billy's knack for surprising people, sort of like a ninja (they're there and gone before you know it). A few people wrote back with some stories of their own, and I thought I'd share.  Also, after the stories, you'll find information regarding Billy's Memorial and Funeral.  We are trying to get a rough headcount for both events, so if you think you might attend, would you please scroll down to the brief survey and fill it out?

From Erin (Colorado)
As the title implies, this is a story of how Billy pulled a fast one on me almost nine years ago. He'll enjoy it; I know he will. So I was begging my parents for a bassett hound puppy and they kept saying no. This went on for months and months so I lost all hope in getting my first puppy. It was February of 2002, and Brian (my brother) was graduating basic training in Fort Bliss, OK. My whole family went, and we had asked Billy to stay at the house and watch my parents 'dog for them. He willingly abliged. Upon my arrival home from OK, I walked into the house and saw this cute little puppy, thinking it was Billy's. I asked him when he got it and he told me that it wasn't his; he was just watching it for someone. Still, no lightbulb had come on that it might just be mine. So I continued to play and snuggle with the puppy, still not thinking anything of it. Then I asked him just who he was watching it for, and he said me! I looked at him, then at my parents, and they were both nodding their heads. I was shocked! I just kept looking at everyone to make sure no one was changing their minds. Ha! That puppy was mine and it was from Billy! That is one of the greatest gifts a person can get it--their first dog--and it was from someone who means the world to me! I still don't know how he was able to convince my parents or when he would have ever had the time. He and I were the best of friends and we were together all the time. So how I never found out the secret I shall never know. Another funny tidbit is he had to keep him hidden in your family's camper for a few days because your mom didn't allow dogs in the house, and I wasn't gone to OK yet. I bet she didn't know that!

From Rob (New York)
I have a couple of stories...
  1. After adding me to his cell phone plan, I broke my cell phone. After work one day, I magically had a new phone.
  2. Once, I lost my dog tags and didn't know how to get new ones. The next day, Will bought me a new set, even though he made me do push-ups for them... I never told him that he got my blood type wrong.

From Kelsey (Virginia)
All the boys have always teased me relentlessly for being a vegetarian.  From the jokes when we'd go out to eat, "Kelsey wants a steak!" to Tyler putting bacon grease in my eggs after we had all spent a "family" Thanksgiving together--they never stopped.

One summer weekend, we all went over to Will's apartment for burgers and beer. I came to expect the usual harassment but I never expected someone to actually try to be accommodating. I could tell Will had something up his sleeve and then it came out.

Casually, he goes, "Hey, I got you some turkey burgers."

I paused, not knowing what to do because he was so serious, but I thought maybe this was the joke on me part.

"Uhhh...." I stammered.... "Turkey burgers?"

"Yeah," he said confidently and then he rubbed it in, "since you're a 'vegetarian'," and he grinned that grin of his.

I busted up laughing. "Coot!  I think you were thinking of veggie burgers!  Turkey burgers aren't vegetarian!!"

I think he proceeded to ask me something along the lines of why I didn't just eat normal burgers. :)

Everyone had a great laugh, but I was so touched that he had tried to get me something special that I 'almost' ate a non-vegetarian turkey burger anyway.

From Halley (Texas)
So I met Will back in February while visiting my sister Amy and her husband Ross at Fort Rucker. (Ross flys Apaches). During the time my sister lived at Fort Rucker, she became close friends with Nathan and Melissa. Melissa and Amy decided to play match-maker (Millionaire Matchmaker was their favorite show on Bravo) and thought that me and Will would really hit it off. Low and behold, we did! We went out every night I was there and had such a great time together. Soon it was time for me to head back to Texas and I was definitely dreading leaving. Will and I had dinner together my last night in Alabama and we said our goodbyes. I woke up the next morning to a text message from Will at around 6am: he told me to make sure that I check out Amy's front porch before I headed home. I told Amy and she immediately ran out her front door. She came back in with the most beautiful orange roses (my favorite) tied together with twine. In her other hand was a glass bottle with a note inside. I was so surprised and dumbfounded!! Will and I were out pretty late the night before and he texted me so early in the morning. To this day, I still have no clue how he managed to find the roses and come up with the message in a bottle in such a short amount of time. I don't even remember telling him that I loved orange flowers! Will definitely has a special way with people and it is a memory I will cherish forever.

Billy's Memorial
The memorial will be at Durango High School on Saturday, February 26, from 3:00-5:30pm.  (If you are interested in helping in any way, please indicate so on the survey below.)

Billy's Funeral
Billy loved DC, and his favorite time of year was when the cherry trees were in bloom, so we have scheduled his funeral during that time of year.  The viewing will be on Monday, March 28, 2011, from 6:00-8:00pm.  The funeral will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, March 29 at 3:00pm.  We will post more details later.

One of Billy's pictures of DC...

Memorial or Funeral Contributions...
...can be sent to...

Vectra Bank, Durango Branch
FOR William "Billy" McCotter Bohren
1101 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, CO  81301

Please make checks payable to the William McCotter Memorial Fund.

We are trying to plan well for the Memorial and Funeral.  If you have time and are willing, please complete the brief survey below.  It will help us in planning.

Thanks for everything!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Reunion

I first met Buddy on August 31, 2010, when Billy and Buddy picked me up at the airport in Atlanta.  I had flown in to celebrate Billy's graduation from flight school at Ft. Rucker, AL, and Billy (always a giver) had driven four hours one way to pick me up.

At the time, believe it or not, I was not much of a dog lover.  I didn't necessarily dislike them, per se; I just never really sought dogs out.  But it didn't take long for Buddy to capture my heart.  He's just that lovable.  As we spent four hours together in the car, I saw Buddy's enthusiasm for life, his excitement at getting to see new things, and his love for Billy.  This picture came from that drive with Billy and Buddy.

Before we got to Billy's house, Buddy started resting his head on my shoulder as well.

As we spent the next few days together, I soon realized that Buddy was quite a special dog.  He's smart and fun.  He's very obedient.  And he sticks by your side.  One afternoon, I asked Billy if I could take Buddy for a walk.  He agreed, and we prepared to head out the door.  As Buddy and I were about to leave, Aaron (Billy's room mate) chimed in, "One of the best things about Buddy is that he sticks pretty close.  You can walk without a leash, and he'll stay right with you."  He was right.  Buddy is smart, fun, and very loyal--the perfect dog for Billy.

After Billy graduated from flight school at Ft. Rucker on September 2, he planned to take 30 days of leave from the army, and then head to his next duty station in Hawaii.  Because Hawaii has no record of rabies, there are strict requirements for pets.  Buddy had to have a rabies vaccine, and then wait 120 days before he could join Billy in Hawaii.  As Billy finished up flight school and packed up his house, he arranged to have a friend watch Buddy until November, when Buddy would finally be allowed to go to Hawaii.  So, a few days after his flight school graduation, Billy and I drove to the airport in Atlanta to send Buddy to a friend.  It was the last time Billy saw Buddy before he entered the hospital--and dogs are not allowed on the oncology ward at Walter Reed.

Billy and I talked about Buddy many times during his stay at Walter Reed.  One day, I brought up the idea of bringing Buddy for a visit.  Billy quickly said no.  "Seriously?" he sort of asked.  "It's too much work.  Don't even try it."  He gave me a stern sort of look, letting me know he was serious.  He said it as if he knew how stubborn I can be.  :-)  "Alright," I conceded.  "Don't worry.  I won't try."  And I didn't.  If Billy didn't want us to get Buddy to DC, I wouldn't pursue it.

December arrived, and Billy's health declined.  We contemplated bringing Buddy to DC anyway, even though Billy had said no.  So many friends and family had been asking, "What about Buddy?  Is there any way we could bring Buddy to see Billy?"  I wanted to try, but it seemed impossible.  Dogs weren't allowed in the hospital, and Billy never seemed to want to try to go outside.  It took a lot of work just to walk around the ward on the 7th floor.  Outside seemed so far away.

One day, as I debated what to do, I watched Billy open a gift--a very special gift--from his childhood.  When I saw Billy's reaction to the gift, my internal debate was over.  We had to try to get Buddy to DC.

Over the next two weeks, there were lots of ups and downs.  One of Billy's nurses asked us what we wanted to do for Billy.  "Anything you ask," he said, "if it's in our power, we'll do it."  I asked about Buddy, and he said it wouldn't be an issue; we'd get the dog in the hospital.  But when I asked his oncologist about bringing Buddy, her face fell.  She knew how special it would be for Billy, but she also knew that only therapy dogs were allowed at Walter Reed.  I was bummed.  It wasn't going to work after all.

That afternoon, however, I got a phone call.  "'Chelle!" my mom said, excitedly, "I just met a lady you need to call about Buddy," and she proceeded to tell me the story of a miracle.  Just a few hours after we found out it wasn't going to work to bring Buddy to DC, my mom met Molly, the woman who was in charge of service animals at the hospital.  Molly had Tanker with her, and she wanted Billy to be able to see him.  As nice as a visit like that would have been, my mom relayed her disappointment that Billy wouldn't be able to see his dog.  As she and Molly talked about the situation, Molly started to get excited.  After all, she was in charge of the animals, and she had relationships with people in high places.  My mom wanted me to call Molly to see if we could work something out.

There were all kinds of impossibilities.  Where would we keep Buddy once he got to DC?  He was in Arizona, and his kennel was huge--so big that it only fit on certain flights.  Would it work for Sam to get him to the vet for a health certificate, and then get him on a flight?  Once we got him to DC, how would we get Billy outside so he could see Buddy?  Buddy was still a puppy (21 months old); he's rambunctious and playful.  Would it be dangerous for him to be near Billy?  There were so many questions--but still, Molly was determined to make a reunion happen.

So we went to work.  She worked miracles at Walter Reed, and I worked with Sam (Buddy's caretaker) and Wish for Our Heroes to coordinate Buddy's travel plans.

And in the middle of all of that, we had some pretty tough conversations with Billy's doctors.  They started talking in terms of "days" instead of "weeks."  So my mom decided we should tell Billy what we were up to.

We stood on either side of his bed.  "Should we tell him now?" she asked.  "I think so," I said.  Billy looked at each of us, slightly puzzled.  "Well," my mom began, "we're working on bringing one of your best buds to DC, all the way from Arizona."  Her voice caught for a second, and she continued.  "'Chelle has been working with Sam and some other people, and we're going to fly Buddy to DC to see you."  Billy smiled, and I knew it was okay.  He had sternly told me no before, but this time, his reaction was different.  He was excited to see Buddy.

That whole week, we talked about the upcoming visit with Buddy.  Molly kept up with me on the phone or email, working out last-minute details.  Boy, is she a miracle-worker!  She got the approval of the commander of the hospital for Buddy to see Billy.  She also arranged for a place for Buddy to stay--just a few minutes' walk from the hospital.  Wish for Our Heroes paid for Buddy's flight, and Sam and I arranged everything with the vet and the airlines to get Buddy to DC.  He'd be flying in on Christmas Eve, and we had the reunion planned for Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we headed out to the hospital.  Two of my brothers--Chris and Bobby--came along to capture the event on film.  Blair--Bobby's wife--came along to help with Buddy.  And CPT Hoffman--a man we came to trust as an advocate and friend--came along in case we'd need anything...even though it was his day off.  We thought you'd watching the adventure...

The Reunion Part 1
Operation: Buddy Extraction

As we were driving back to Walter Reed from the airport, Buddy riding next to me in the backseat of Billy's Jeep, my mom called.  "Where are you?" she asked.  I told her.  "Well," she said, "CSM DelValle (very highly ranked at Walter Reed) came by this morning, and he wanted to know how things were going with Billy's dog.  I told him that things are all set up for Billy to see Buddy tomorrow.  When I told him that, he said, 'Wait.  The dog's going to be here tonight?!?  You make sure Billy gets to see Buddy tonight!  There's no reason he should have to wait until tomorrow to see him.'"  As soon as I got off the phone, I called Molly to see if we could set something up for that night.  Thankfully, Molly was flexible and excited, and the last-minute change was no problem.

The one difficulty was Ward 71.  Because of the nature of cancer and chemotherapy, patients' immune systems can be easily compromised--and having dogs around is NOT a good idea.  Ward 71 is the inpatient cancer ward at Walter Reed, so there was NO WAY to bring Buddy to Billy's room.  Not to be defeated, CPT Rahman (the new nurse in charge of Ward 71) arranged for us to use a room in another ward.  So the nurses in Ward 71 and Ward 75 worked together to make it all happen.

Blair and I met Molly outside the hospital, and we took Buddy to the room on Ward 75.  Chris and Bobby were at the ready with their cameras.  And everyone else worked to get Billy ready to travel from Ward 71 to Ward 75.

For some reason, the doctors wanted to run another test, and then Billy could travel to the other ward.  "Why do we have to do that now?" Billy asked.  "Why can't I just go see Buddy now?" he wanted to know.  He was really excited.

Soon, Billy was ready, and the entourage started down the hall.  They passed the nurses' station, and headed toward the exit.  "You should have seen their faces as we were marching by," my mom said.  "You could tell they were REALLY excited that this finally worked.  It was one of those things that you wanted to hope for, but you didn't know if it could really happen--and all of a sudden it was happening."

We knew the reunion would be something to remember, so Bobby and Chris captured it on film for you to see.

The Reunion Part 2

Christmas Eve was the last day Billy was alert enough to interact with Buddy.  He was a gift that came just in time.

The Best of Friends

Special Moments

Tonight, as we remembered the reunion together, my mom admitted, "I remember thinking, 'All this over a dog!'"  (She has never been much of a dog person.)  "And now I know," she continued, "Buddy isn't just some dog.  He's really special.  I'm so glad Billy got to see Buddy on Christmas Eve..."  And then she trailed off.  It's special to remember, but it's also hard.  We all miss Billy a lot.

We've been working on plans for a memorial and a funeral.  Billy loved DC, and his favorite time of year was when the cherry trees were in bloom.

One of Billy's Pictures of DC

Cherry Blossoms

His funeral will be at the end of March--during cherry blossom season--and he'll be buried in Arlington.  We have a few more details to arrange, and then we'll publish the date of the funeral.  In the meantime, we've scheduled a memorial service in Durango, CO.  It will be at Durango High School on Saturday, February 26, from 3:00-5:30pm.

Memorial or funeral contributions can be sent to
Vectra Bank
FOR William (Billy) McCotter Bohren
1101 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, CO  81301

Thank you to everyone has helped us on this journey.  Thank you for your cards, hugs, and prayers.