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Treasure Coast Essay

An honor long overdue

It took nearly 44 years, but on March 18th President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to the late Ardie Copas of Fort Pierce.  He was one of 24 soldiers recognized for conspicuous gallantry after a review of Pentagon records.  Sergeant Copas, just 19, was a machine gunner serving in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.  On May 12th, 1970, his convoy was ambushed.  Copas repelled the enemy under heavy fire, holding his post until four wounded comrades were evacuated and he was mortally wounded.  In 2002, Congress called for a review of records from World War II and later conflicts to make sure Jewish and Hispanic service members had not been denied the Medal of Honor because of prejudice.  Several other soldiers, such as Copas, were found to be deserving although they had won other medals.  Copas’ daughter, Shyrell Jean Herrera, who moved to Tennessee with her mother Betsy, accepted the Medal of Honor from the president.  She never met her father.  She was born in Fort Pierce after he was sent overseas.  On an internet message board honoring Vietnam veterans, she wrote, “You have always been a hero to me even without the medals.”  For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.