Michael David Copeland of Colbert, Okla., was born May 14, 1975, in Sherman, Texas, to Michael and Connie Copeland, their firstborn. He was a loving son with an adventurous spirit and a caring heart. He passed away June 9, 2012, in Baghdad, Iraq. He was 37.
Michael David had a fun, happy childhood. He was the older of the Copeland’s two boys by four years. During his childhood years, he could usually be found with his brother, Chris, at their family home in Silo behind the wheel of a go-cart or on the seat of a motorcycle, usually with their neighborhood friends in tow, or helping to raise the ever-growing number of unusual pets to join the family. The entire family could also be found with their friends boating on Lake Texoma anytime the sky was clear and the air was warm. Michael David loved being outdoors and staying active. Whether it was a boat, a motorcycle or a Star Wars play set, Michael David’s friends always knew him as the one to have the “cool toys.” That didn’t end when he became an adult.
He graduated from Silo High School in 1994 and joined the United States Marine Corps on May 28, 1996. He was an F/A–18 fighter jet aircraft mechanic and was passionate about his work. He deployed twice, first on the U.S.S. Enterprise, then the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, working as part of the flight crew on the deck of the aircraft carriers.
He began to see the world during this time, creating deep bonds and lasting friendships with the Marines he served with along the way. He was a proud NCO. He held firm to the notion, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Though he had a yearning for adventure and desire to continue to see the world, Michael David’s family and close friends back home were also very important to him. So, in August of 2001, he received his honorable discharge after more than 5 years of dedicated service in the Marine Corps, and he returned to Oklahoma.
Michael David’s commitment to serving his country was not over, though. He enlisted in the Oklahoma Air National Guard on Oct. 2, 2001, and re-enlisted for a second time in 2007. He deployed again in 2008.
Michael David was a decorated serviceman with numerous awards from not only the Marines, Air Force and Oklahoma National Guard, but also the U.S. Navy and NATO for his work during joint service operations circling the globe. On Dec. 31, 2009, he received his honorable discharge from the Oklahoma Air National Guard, deciding he was ready to see what else life had waiting for him. He left the military as a staff sergeant after 13 years of loyal service.
He attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health with an emphasis in aviation management.
This degree from Southeastern, along with the many years of experience and education he acquired while in the military, led to a very successful career in the aviation mechanics field for Michael David. But Southeastern also led to something else for him. It was there, in October 2005, that he met his future wife, Angela. They were together for almost five years before getting married at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas on Aug. 20, 2010.
Michael David loved Angela’s daughter, Celeste, as though she was his own child and he cherished their father-daughter relationship. He was not only a loving parent to her, he was also a role model and teacher. He took time to explain the ways of the world to her in his own way. He taught her to be brave, take chances, stand up for what she believes in and, most of all, to cherish family and loved ones. The open, honest relationship between Celeste and Michael David did not end with his passing. She will take the lessons that he taught her with her throughout her life.
Michael David, Angela and Celeste seized every opportunity to take vacations and travel together. Though their time together as a family was short, they made so many happy memories together.
Michael David also enjoyed his career and worked hard to ensure a great future for his family and him. He worked at a variety of positions in the aviation mechanic field over the past several years before taking a position as a private contractor supporting the country’s military overseas. In 2010, he was in Iraq as a civilian aircraft mechanic, working under a United States Department of Defense contract supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and then spent most of 2011 in Afghanistan working in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
His latest career move took him back to Iraq in an environment different from his first stint – this time without an American military presence – but he didn’t worry because he was living and working in a protected area in Baghdad.
He was optimistic about the new job and opportunity. Michael David loved to travel. It was one of his greatest joys in life and the fact that he got to see the world with his job was an added bonus. He’d visited more than 22 countries over the years and looked forward to each new adventure he and his family would take.
Michael David was an amazing mechanic and he could fix anything with a motor. He was a perfectionist in this aspect, insisting on working away at something for great lengths of time rather than accept anything less than flawless results. He always had a project going, and his tools were some of his most prized possessions.
Michael David was known to have strong opinions on many subjects and wasn’t shy in communicating them. Because of this, he affectionately earned many nicknames from his friends and co-workers, for example “Rage” was one, though it wasn’t because they thought he was angry. The nickname came more from the delivery in which Michael David expressed his opinions. “Speaking loudly” (yelling) didn’t mean he was mad – it just meant he cared enough about something that he felt everyone should hear.
Michael David had a reserved, softer side as well. He was an incredible writer, something that even many of those close to him didn’t know. He got joy in giving his niece and nephews toys that made the loudest noises and racket to annoy their daddy (his brother, Chris). He was a prankster.
He had a close relationship with his mom and dad. No matter where he was in the world, he always stayed in close contact with them, often talking to them on the phone for hours at a time. He cherished his friendships as well, making a point to keep in touch with those from both recent years and his special longtime friends at home.
Michael David was a good man. He lived a full, all-or-nothing kind of life and packed more into his short 37 years than most people could in a life spent twice as long. He believed in taking risks. He was so much to so many and will be missed terribly by all who had the privilege of knowing and loving him. His parents are more proud of him than he probably ever knew.
A service to celebrate his life will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3 at the Brown’s Funeral Service Chapel in Durant, Okla. Family hour will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Monday, July 2, also at Brown’s Funeral Service.
He will be laid to rest with full military honors at Silo Restland Cemetery in Silo, Okla. Immediately following the service, a gathering and meal will be held at the Masonic Lodge in Durant.
Pallbearers will be Doug Stark, Eric Bo, Justin Pierce, Brent Berry, Burke Berry and David Coxsey. Mike Hindman and Jason Vandergriff will serve as honorary pallbearers.
Michael David is survived by his wife, Angela, stepdaughter Celeste Campbell, parents Michael and Connie Copeland, brother Chris Copeland and wife Larissa, grandmother Maxine Wylie, nephews Kyle and Reese Copeland and niece Keira Copeland, all of Colbert, Okla.; grandmother Laquita Armstrong of Silo, Okla.; aunt and uncle Sandy and Greg Berry of Hamilton, Mont., and uncle Gary Wylie of San Antonio, Texas; cousins, Brent Berry of Norman, Okla., and son Burke of Ringling, Okla., and Matt Berry and daughter Hailee of Hamilton, Mont.; and a countless number of devoted, close friends, here and in locations around the world.
He was preceded in death by grandparents Pete Copeland, Dorothy Armstrong, Bill Armstrong and Lloyd Wylie.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.brownsfuneralservice.com.
In leiu of flowers donations can be made to an organization Michael was very passionate about the Horned Lizard Conservation Society at www.hornedlizards.org.