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Brother’s War Story Reveale | Local headline
Feb 20, 2009 | 2382 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dublin Resident Richard Copas had no idea when he went to the home of

Jim Ross for a pressure washing job that it would be the end of a journey he

began 39 years ago.

Nor did Copas or Ross, a Vietnam veteran, have any idea that journey

would lead them to discover a highly decorated national hero.

Copas was 15 and living in Florida when authorities showed up at school

one day to tell him his 19-year-old brother, Ardie Ray Copas, had been killed

in action in Vietnam on May 12, 1970. Copas barely remembers anything that

happened after that day and never really knew any of the circumstances

surrounding his brother’s death, or even what unit he served with. He spent

years trying to find out, but because his family had become estranged from

each other, the teen who was devastated over his brother’s death never

learned much information.

Copas moved to Dublin as a young man and continued his search.

Although he contacted various government authorities asking for information

he did not know the proper channels to go through and his search proved


Then he showed up at the Ross home for a job. Copas noticed the purple

heart on a vehicle in the yard and when he and Ross began to talk Copas

mentioned his brother.

“He asked if I was in Vietnam. He said, ‘my brother was in Vietnam, but

he was killed in 1970.’ He said, ‘I don’t have anything to show for his service

to his country,’” said Ross, realizing Copas was “a very patriotic man.”

“I could see the hurt in his eyes that he didn’t have anything. I said

maybe I can find a little memento you could hold on,” said Ross, a decorated

veteran himself. Ross served with the Army’s 25th Infantry and had earned a

Purple Heart, a Medal of Valor, a Combat Infantry Badge, a Vietnamese

Service Ribbon, a Vietnamese Campaign Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation,

which was a unit medal given to the Third Squadron Unit in which he had

served, a National Defense Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.

Ross, a proud Army veteran, said he “loves the Army” and wants to do all

he can to support the men and women serving today and those who have

gone on before him. He decided to question Copas about his brother and see

if he could learn anything about him.

Copas told Ross, “The only thing I remember is something five, fifth


Ross knew instantly that wasn’t right.

“I said there was really no fifth division. I started saying maybe I know

that unit your brother was in. I’ll have to do some checking,” said Ross.

He began to think back on his days in Vietnam. He remember one

particular night when he heard some radio traffic.

“We were listening to the radio and heard a fire fight with a unit called

the Bobcats. Ours’ was the Saber. We were listening to see if we had to

reinforce them,” Ross remembered the Bobcats because he liked their radio

call name.

“I thought maybe that was the unit,” he told himself there wasn’t much

chance that it could be, but decided to check anyway.

“So I googled the fifth mechanized unit, there was a gentleman listed in

Illinois, so I called him up,” said Ross.

Ross told the man who he was and what he was doing and asked the

man if he had ever heard of a Ardie Copas. The man’s answer shocked him.

“He said, ‘Oh yes. We know Ardie Copas in our unit very well,’” said Ross.

The man went on to tell Ross that Copas had won the nation’s second

highest service medal, the Distinguished Service Cross.

“He said he didn’t know him personally but if I went to the memorial on

the Fifth’s site his picture was on the site,” said Ross.

From then on Ross was hooked.

“I said I’ve got to investigate him a little more. He’s a very interesting

fellow to win the nation’s second highest honor.”

Ross couldn’t believe Richard Copas had a brother who was a hero to

thousands who served before and after him and he did not even know it. He

decided to see just what this Ardie Copas had done.

“I got in touch with personnel in St. Louis, Missouri. Richard signed for

me to order the medals and the medals were sent to me,” said Ross, adding

when the medals arrived, “I was double-floored. Not only had he won the

second highest honor, he’d won the third highest medal, the Silver Star, the

fourth highest medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart posthumously and

he also won the Army Commendation Medal for Valor.

“When those medals arrived I got really inspired,” said Ross, adding he

decided he couldn’t just hand those medals over to Richard Copas. The

turning over of those medals had to be more significant than that. Ardie

deserved it and so did his family.

“I decided he deserved more than to be just handed these medals since

his brother was a true hero in every sense of the word,” said Ross.

He began a plan to recognize the bravery of Ardie Copas and to honor

him and his family for the hero he was. Ross called local members of the

Army. Ross was driven by Richard’s memory of his brother, the two were

obviously very close.

“I can remember him tearing up that day when he was telling me he lost

his brother,” said Ross. “He didn’t even know his brother won the

Distinguished Service Cross. I said, ‘You could have gone through your life

never knowing your brother won the Distinguished Service Cross,” said Ross,

adding he just can’t explain “enough about that medal. That’s really


Ross also discovered he and Copas were in the same 25th Infantry

Division. Ross was in Vietnam two years before Copas.

“We ran the same roads, the same barracks,” said Ross.

When he contacted the Army Recruiting Office asking for help in

recognizing Copas, Ross got another surprise. Members of the unit from

Dublin to Warner Robins and higher up command felt just as he did about

Copas’ sacrifices and honors. They were willing to come and do a proper

military presentation of the medals to Richard Copas. Ross planned a

ceremony for Wednesday at the Veterans Administration, but the Recruiting

Office wanted to present the medals at the Vietnam Memorial on the

Courthouse Square instead.

Ross said the location could not have been any better. As word spread of

the ceremony honoring the Copas family, members of the Laurens County

Sheriff’s Department voiced their desire to attend and honor a fallen hero. In

fact, two members of the Sheriff’s Department are veterans themselves. Capt.

Kenneth Butler served in the Army in Vietnam and Deputy Steve Vertin is a

Marine. A Dublin Police Officer and Allen Thomas, former clerk of courts, also

attended the ceremony.

“It always brings back memories to me,” said Butler after the ceremony.

“My heart goes out to the family. My old memories become like yesterday. It’s

great to be a part of this. My heart goes out to the men and women serving

our country today. It means everything to me.”

Although passersby may not have known what was going on. It was

obvious with the military presence and the sheriff’s deputies and police

officer at attention during the event was a somber one. Even the passersby

seemed to attempt to quieten their vehicles as they passed by. Those who

stopped at the red light at the memorial during the ceremony moved forward

with a less hurried motion than normal.

First, Ross was honored with a “Warriors Supporting Warriors” award for

his effort to recognize Copas by Sgt. First Class Robert Browder from the

Dublin Army Recruiting Office. Browder helped Ross put the ceremony


Then, as the words of Capt. Evelyn R. Hunter began those in attendance

learned just how significant a role Ardie Copas had played.

“Taken from the citation of Sergeant Copas’s award of the Distinguished

Service Cross: Sgt. Ardie Ray Copas’ company was suddenly attacked by a

large hostile force. After Sgt. Copas began returning fire, his armored vehicle

was struck by an enemy round, knocking him to the ground and injuring four

American soldiers beside the vehicle. Ignoring his own wounds, Sgt. Copas

quickly remounted the burning vehicle and commenced returning fire with his

machine gun. Braving the hostile fire directed at him and the possible

detonation of the mortar rounds inside the track vehicle, Sgt. Copas

maintained a heavy volume of suppressive fire on the enemy while the

wounded Americans were safely evacuated. This act continued until he was

mortally wounded when another enemy round hit his vehicle. His daring

action resulted in the safe evacuation of his comrades and prevented injury or

death to fellow Americans,” said Hunter.

“Mr. Copas, your brother Sgt. Ardie Ray Copas was disciplined, physically

and mentally tough. He was trained and proficient in his warrior tasks and

drills. He truly embodies the warrior ethos,” said Hunter. “On behalf of Mr.

and Mrs. Ross and the entire Army family we return the medals and ribbons

earned by the Sgt. Copas for his distinguished service and valor to the Copas


Copas and members of his family were filled with emotion as the U.S.

flag and medals were presented to them.

“Y’all don’t know how much this means to me,” Copas told Browder and


“If it wasn’t for soldiers like Mr. Copas and Mr. Ross there wouldn’t be

soldiers like myself and Sgt. Browder. They had to go first for us to get there,”

said Hunter as she thanked the men.

Ross said he isn’t finished yet. He plans to seek the nation’s highest

medal for Sgt. Copas, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I’ve never done this before. I have to go see Congressman (Jim)

Marshall...When I was helping him I was just going to try to get him a little

pin,” said Ross, adding he feels obligated to help get that award for Sgt.


“Hero is (a word that is) used a lot, it’s thrown around a lot. Everybody

uses ‘hero’. But, Ardie Copas was a hero in the true since of the word. The

proudest thing I’ve ever done in my life was serving the United States Army in

Vietnam and the second thing was being a part of the Army yesterday for

what they did in honoring Ardie Copas. The Lord works in mysterious ways,”

said Ross, adding he’s so glad he got to be a part of the Copas journey.

“He told me he’s been looking for somebody to help him for 39 years. I

was in the 25th. We fought the same jungles in Vietnam. I was just there two

years before him. We have a lot in common. Richard has thanked me

probably 200 times. I said you don’t have to thank me. This is

something...I’m just proud to do.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
John Vinzant
February 27, 2014
Congratulations Richard,Ardie brings honor to our Country,his family and Charlie Co.