Medals are given for valor on the battlefield commemorating the brave men and women fighting in our armed forces. Movies are made to celebrate that type of military service while too often the story of those soldiers doing their duty on the home front goes unrecognized. Usually, those who functioned in this capacity as part of the “greatest generation” in World War II were just happy to get home and move on with their lives, so they never pushed the point. Richard “Dick” Coppes of Vicksburg, who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 near Washington, D.C., never expected any recognition for his service. But it turns out that Dick has friends in high places.
One in particular, Brigadier General Warren Lawrence, also of Vicksburg, took a look at his close friend Coppes’ discharge papers while helping Dick take care of things. Lawrence discovered that Coppes never received the medals he was entitled to for serving. One was the American Campaign medal and the other the Victory Medal that all soldiers should receive upon discharge.
Lawrence, ordered the medals, arranged a surprise ceremony during the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s weekly meeting. While members of the club were near tears, the general ceremoniously pinned them on this man who didn’t think he did much of anything. Coppes, who is now 88 and slowing down just a wee bit, stepped out of the room to compose himself in the restroom. When he returned, he said he “sure didn’t recognize the guy he saw in the mirror” there, and proudly left the medals on the work shirt he was wearing so he could go show them to his wife Freddi who is residing in a nursing home in Kalamazoo.