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