Hundreds in Uniform Attend Funeral for Marine
Altavista, VA - Staff Sgt. Gregory Copes was shot and killed by a police officer while serving in Afghanistan, and Monday he was laid to rest in his home town of Lynch Station.
His burial followed a funeral in a packed Altavista High School Gymnasium. Judging from the audience, Copes left an incredible impression in Altavista.
The Hargrave Military Academy graduate died days before he was supposed to return home. This was front and center on everyone's minds, remembering he left behind a wife and four children.
"It really leaves a lump in your throat, knowing that one of your native sons is now gone," said Lynch Station Scoutmaster, Ron Layne.
A native son sent overseas to fight for what he believed in, Copes deployed in January and was set to return from combat in a few days.
His homecoming though was not the one this community was looking forward to.
"It's sad and it's hard, but it's also part of what we do," said Army First Sergeant Scott David.
The audience in Copes' funeral was a sea of uniforms: Service men and women there to honor one of their own.
"He understood the risk when he put the uniform on, just like the rest of us, that may be the price you have to pay," said David.
Soldiers, fire fighters, police officers and boy scouts all attended. The bond they say between them, is one of service.
Father and son Brian and James Davis didn't know Copes but felt as if he was family.
"My father was in the military, he was in the Army. And there's this, some sort of bond, that links the families of each together, and you kind of just feel the pain that they're feeling," said James Davis.
"The Boy Scouts, the police officers, the fire fighters, we're all a family, because we're a family of service, we serve our community and we serve our country," said Brian Davis, an Altavista Police Officer.
After the service, Copes was flanked by hundreds of his family, who brought this combat soldier to his final place of peace.
"And when something like this happens, we come together like a family," said Davis.
Perhaps one of the most memorable and moving moments in the funeral service was when a Chaplain recited a letter from Copes' siblings; it read "you were our hero, long before you became a marine."