Colbert family pleads to have loved one's body returned to U.S.

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

COLBERT, OK-A Colbert family is inconsolable at the loss of their young son and husband working overseas in Iraq. Now, they've received even more devastating news.

Mike Copeland spoke with his son, Michael, for the last time Friday night. About 12 hours later, he was told his son had died. On top of dealing with their loss, they said the Iraqi government will not release his body. And now, they're struggling with the U.S. Government to bring Michael home.

"They came to the door and knocked on the door but I couldn't open it, because I knew that if I did my life would be changed forever."

Angela Copeland found out Saturday that her husband, Michael, was dead of unknown causes.

"Sure enough I opened the door and they came in and told me they found Michael deceased in his living quarters," she said.

Michael Copeland worked for DynCorp International doing aircraft maintenance in Iraq for less than a week before he died.
His father, Mike, said after the company notified them about Michael's death, they were told his body will remain in Iraq.

"I don't look for us to go to war over a thing like this but I see no excuse at all for the Iraqi government to hold his body. That doesn't make sense to us," he said.

"Of course I felt sad, but mostly I felt angry because I know for a fact that's not something that Michael would agree with. We as a family don't agree with that," Angela said.

Mike Copeland said he contacted the State Department and DynCorp for help, but was told that because U.S. military presence has ceased in Iraq the Iraqi government is in charge.

"Everyone I've spoke with is always sorry for our loss, but they say there's nothing they can do. I find it very difficult to believe that my government...there's nothing they can do to bring my son home from Iraq?" Asked Copeland.

"If someone comes into the United States and they were to die, it would be the same thing. We're basically under the Iraqi law."

U.S. Congressman Dan Boren said they are working with the State Department to get Michael's body back to the U.S. but it may take a long time because it's the first death in Iraq since the troops were pulled out.

"We're actually looking at three different options: one by a U.S. Citizen, one by the Iraqis but are having a U.S. Citizen watch and the other is to bring the body back to the U.S. to do an autopsy," said Boren.

"He was a good man and we loved him. And we don't feel like he's being treated fairly by his country that he served and we want them to take steps to bring him home. We want them to bring him home," said Mike Copeland.

"We're not doing good. Because not only are we having to deal with the loss but, we're having to deal with the battle to get him back home," said Angela Copeland

DynCorp International released a statement saying:

"We are currently waiting for the Iraqi Government to approve the release of his remains for transport back to the U.S., where the U.S. Government will conduct an autopsy."

Congressman Boren said the State Department found no signs of foul play while investigating Copeland's death.

The family is asking the public to help them bring Michael's remains back home by contacting state representatives.


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