Dublin man’s brother to get Medal of Honor

wcrenshaw@macon.comFebruary 22, 2014 

Dublin resident Richard Copas believes the phone call he got Friday night is the reason he has survived a heart attack, cancer and diabetes.

“I tell everybody I’m just here to make sure my brother gets the Medal of Honor,” he said. “I think it’s the reason the good Lord has let me live.”

His brother, Ardie Ray Copas, was killed in Cambodia in 1970 after his Army unit came under attack by a large enemy force. He was among the 24 named who will get the Medal of Honor following a review to determine whether medals may have been denied due to discrimination.

Ardie Copas was among five whites on the list. Richard Copas figured it was because their last name may have drawn the attention of the reviewers. Ardie Copas had previously been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal to the Medal of Honor.

Richard Copas said their family is from Florida. He became estranged from them after his brother’s death, and never knew much about how he died until about five years ago.

That’s when he met Jim Ross, a Vietnam veteran in Dublin who was awarded the Purple Heart.

When Ross learned Richard Copas wanted to know how his brother died, he began researching it.

That’s when Richard Copas first learned of the heroic nature of his brother’s death. Ross couldn’t understand why he wasn’t awarded the nation’s highest honor, and he began working to see if he could get it for him.

It was Ross who called Copas on Friday night with the news about the medal.

“I just started crying,” Copas said. “It’s the most exciting thing to happen to me since my kids were born.”

According to the official citation, Ardie Copas was a machine gunner on an armored vehicle when his unit was attacked. Despite being injured by enemy fire, he continued to shoot, allowing other injured troops to be safely evacuated.

He was 19, and Richard Copas was 16 at the time.

“I’m 60 years old and I still cry every time I talk about it,” he said. “He was one of the finest people I ever knew in my life.”

Ross said he was just surfing the Web on Friday when he saw the story about the 24 people getting the Medal of Honor, and decided to check the list.

“I ran down the hall screaming,” Ross said. “I said ‘He got it! He got it! He got the Medal of Honor!’ ’’

Ross said he originally took an interest in the case because he thought Copas deserved to know how his brother died.

The only thing Copas could tell him at the time was his brother’s name and a vague recollection that he was in a unit called the “5th.” It turned out to be the 5th Infantry.

“That was the only thing I had to work with and when I got through I said ‘My God, this guy’s a war hero,’ ’’ Ross said.

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