U.S. Army veteran from Wayne County, W.Va presented with medals decades after serving

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 4:52 AM EST
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Just before days Veteran's Day, one veteran is being honored for his service and sacrifice so many years ago.

John T. Copley was born in Williamson, West Virginia, and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963. He served from Aug. 13, 1963, to May 13, 1966.

He was deployed in 1964 and served in Vietnam. He served until '66 when he was honorably discharged.

In 1965, Copley was recommended for the Soldier's Medal for his heroic actions.

"In his second consecutive tour in 1965, Specialist Copley was conducting a resupply mission in Saigon within the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy when the building exploded by an enemy bombing," said Doug Salyer.

Copley ran into the building that was still burning, sifting through debris and rescuing people who were trapped inside. Decades later, that service and sacrifice are now being honored.

"We know that he is tough and brave but the fact that his sacrifice was validated," said Una Goldie, Copley's sister. "I'm glad it's validated."

On Thursday, Copley was presented with the medals he earned so many years ago, including the Soldier's Medal.

His sister says the delay was partly because of issues with paperwork over the years.

Copley received his medals during a special ceremony at Fort Gay Pre-K through 8. Students assembled, dressed in red, white and blue. The Tolsia JROTC program presented the colors, while the choir at the school sang several patriotic songs.

"This is long, long overdue," said Salyer during the presentation. "We thank you for all you have done for this great nation."

Copley's family was there for the ceremony. Copley's sister says her brother hasn't shared many stories of his time in combat over the years, but she wasn't surprised to hear of his selfless acts so many years ago.

"We knew he was in transportation and was a specialist in helicopter parts and that type of thing, but we just thought it was like working in an office," Goldie said. "The pictures he showed us and the experiences he shared with us. But it doesn't surprise me to hear this. I could see him doing that and that he was calm in the chaos," Goldie said. "It's good he got that recognition today, and he knows that he's appreciated and his service was appreciated."

Goldie says after her brother was honorably discharged, he returned to school at Marshall University where he got his bachelor's degree. He also taught school in Wayne County for many years.

Copley also received a proclamation from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito during the ceremony.

"It is just amazing and I am proud of him," Goldie said. "I'm really proud he got the recognition."