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Willie Copeland III
Recipient of the "Cross"
2nd Highest Military Honor

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Willie Copeland III - Navy Cross RecipientThe brave are those who recognize the path ahead and yet drive forward undeterred. On April 7, 2004, Sgt. Copeland exemplified such bravery as he and his team were traveling through the dangerous Sunni Triangle. As their 15-vehicle convoy headed toward a forward operating base in the Al Anbar Province, a large group of insurgents ambushed the convoy. Suddenly, about 40 to 60 insurgents embedded in concealed positions along the Euphrates River attacked the Marines, instantly halting the lead vehicle.

Taken aback by the sudden attack, Copeland had no time to regroup. Insurgents began raining heavy fire down upon the entire convoy, using mortar- and machine-gun fire. One shot found its mark, disabling Copeland’s Humvee. Forced to flee, Copeland led five Marines out toward the enemy fighters through an open field. Exposed and with no back-up, they trudged through a deep and muddy canal, rushing toward the enemies. Slowly, methodically, the Marines covered ground, eventually getting within hand grenade range of the enemy.

The vigor of the first assault eliminated 10 insurgents at close range while forcing others to flee. During the firefight, Copeland’s commanding officer was hit. Unwilling to subject any more Marines to danger, he signaled others to remain in covered positions as he exposed himself to fire and moved the captain to a safer location. Shielding his officer from further attacks, Copeland applied first aid and waited with him until an armored Humvee arrived to evacuate the injured Marine to a hospital.

For his leadership and actions, Copeland was awarded the Navy Cross on April 21, 2005.

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