COLBERT – More than 60 people joined the family of Michael Copeland on Wednesday for a candlelight vigil at a local church, as officials still do not know when the Iraqi government will release Mr. Copeland’s body for burial in the U.S.
The plight of the Copeland family was gaining wider attention this week, as more and more news outlets hone in on the family’s tragedy which has implications for international diplomacy. Copeland passed away June 9 of unknown causes in Baghdad, and the Iraqi government has yet to issue a death certificate so his body may be transported to his native land.
Brown’s Funeral Service of Durant issued a pending funeral notice for the 37-year-old former Marine on Tuesday, but it is not known when the family will be able to lay Copeland to rest.
“The real sticking point is, we want to be the ones to do the autopsy,” said Brent Berry of Oklahoma City, a spokesman for the Copeland family. “I’ve spoken to the Bureau of Consular Affairs covering Iraq. Without going into any details, they feel like there is some positive negotiation going forward.”
Berry attended the candlelight vigil held Wednesday at Colbert United Methodist Church, along with Copeland’s wife, Angela, and other family, friends and supporters. Berry said the Iraqis may issue a death certificate soon, clearing the way for transport of the remains.
“We have had tremendous support from our Congressional leaders,” he said. “Our governor’s office has been calling, trying to get as much support for us as they can.”
Congressman Dan Boren issued a new statement Wednesday about the situation, hinting he may be done issuing statements due to privacy concerns.
“First and foremost, I would like to send my deepest sympathies to the family of Michael David Copeland,” Boren says in the statement. “My office has been in touch with the Copeland family since shortly after his death in Iraq. I understand that this is a frustrating situation for the family during a time of grief, and we are working diligently with the State Department to achieve the immediate return of Mr. Copeland’s body to Oklahoma.
“We will continue to work with the Copeland family, the State Department, Governor Fallin’s office, and the rest of the Oklahoma congressional delegation until the situation is resolved. In order to protect the privacy of the family, I will not be discussing further details of this case.”
Still, if no progress is made soon, Berry said “at some point, we’re going to Plan B.”
Candles, music, a moment of silence and readings from the Book of Psalms pervaded a vigil held on the lawn of the Colbert church at twilight Wednesday. Pastor Kristiane Smith said the people had gathered to provide “strength, reassurance and hope” to the Copeland family.
“We need to continue to show our strength until we can get Michael David home,” she said.