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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  • by here Location: gone on Jul 5, 2012 at 02:49 PM
    My son will be stationed in FT HOOD coming Saturday and already talking about going to IRAQ to relieve troops already there. I don't want him to go scared things like this will happen. But God Bless this Family and thank goodness he is now in his resting place. Sorry to the family and my prayers are with you
  • by PatTheRat Location: DFW on Jul 4, 2012 at 10:29 AM
    Thank goodness this young man's body is being returned. Hopefully the idiot politicians will realize this was a serious mistake and will work to make sure this happens to no other family. Many prayers to this young man's family, that they may now have closure and gain peace that he was serving his country (albeit as a contractor, he was nevertheless serving our country!).
  • by Expat on Jun 29, 2012 at 03:56 PM
    It's great to find out this young man has returned to the U.S. but for those who seek employment beyond our borders be advised, when you leave our soil the rules change. What seems logical and lawful to us may not hold true in the foriegn country you are working in. In this case I'm thankful he was sent home to his family.
  • by Nonsense on Jun 27, 2012 at 05:44 PM
    The body is being shipped home. 2 weeks of drama and outrage, and for what . . .NOTHING. There is nothing to see here, move along.
  • by RYAN Location: DETROIT on Jun 27, 2012 at 01:24 PM
    It is hard for me to believe that this young man who Im sure had an extensive physical prior to leaving for Iraq, died of natural causes. Although this can happen, it is unlikely. If I were the family, I would have my own autopsy done when he returns by a board certified forensic pathologist. Thats what I would do.
  • by shay Location: michigan on Jun 25, 2012 at 08:29 PM
    The point of this story being put on here is for every one to help the family bring Mike's body back by getting a hold of your state representatives and puting pressure on them so their family can get some closure and give him a respectful burial. This is not a debate. This man came home from overseas to help with my brother's funeral. Please help this family. They deserve to say good bye to their loved one as we all have with our loved ones who have passed.
  • by April Location: Durant on Jun 25, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    This man Fought for our country. Fought for our safety and our freedom. He put his life on the line for us. The least we can do is get him back on US soil to his final resting place.
  • by Former Marine Location: Houston, TX on Jun 20, 2012 at 02:31 PM
    I don’t have any time or the patience to read the blogs of those that are trying to make Mike’s death a political issue. I didn’t know Mike very well but I will say that I knew of him from my Nephew’s stories who served with him in the Marine Corps. They were best friends and Mike made the trip to Michigan to get to my Nephew’s funeral when he passed away a few years ago. I had the pleasure of talking to Mike and reminiscing with him about the good times he and my Nephew had while they were in the Marine Corps. In my mind, that says a lot about Mike’s character as a person. I agree with Brett that Mike was a true friend, patriot, and a good Marine. My hope is that issue gets resolved soon and Mike’s body gets returned to his family so they can put him to rest. My heartfelt condolences go out to Mike’s wife and his Family. Semper Fi, Marine…
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM in reply to Former Marine
      Mike talked about your nephew alot. Just so you know. Semper Fi, Marine
  • by Brett Location: Afghanistan on Jun 19, 2012 at 12:19 AM
    First of all, make no mistake. Mike was a patriot, and a Marine. Semper Fi. Not to mention an American Citizen. Most of you guys have turned this into a political "who's fault is it" discussion. How pathetic could you be. Mike worked for me in Iraq and Afghanistan. He always did his job. This knucklehead who's complaining about what we make over here is probably a dead beat. He's obviously not informed about what we do over here. If you had the skills we had and the offer you'd be over here to. We do what the military machine cant do. Something they have proved over and over again. This family just wants there boy and VETERAN home, and our government has the obligation to do so. We weren't at war with the Philippines when we went after those missionaries. Bye the way, It wont take troops to bring him back you idiots. You people have no idea what you're talking about. You all just want to cause problems. If you aren't part of the solution. You're part of the problem. So while you enjoy your families, a warm bed and hot meals tonight, we'll keep doing what we do to remain part of this solution.
    • reply
      by L. Frankfurter on Jun 19, 2012 at 09:48 AM in reply to Brett
      Nice ad hominem attack. I don't think anyone is saying you don't have the right to go to a war torn region and make money. Just don't whine when something bad happens. I also think that it is a shame that the U.S. government pays private contractors better than our troops. Also, if people are so concerned about getting this guy's body back, maybe they should pressure the GOP to confirm Obama's nominee for Iraq ambassador. It couldn't hurt to actually have someone in the position.
      • reply
        by Brett on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM in reply to L. Frankfurter
        No body is whining. Let me break it down for you, although you already seem to know it all. The reason they hire us and pay us more is that we are cheaper than developing young military members to our level of experience. Not to mention retirement, housing allowance, etc... Do you have any idea what that costs, not to mention how long it takes. Didn't think so. Stick to what you DO know.
  • by Ann on Jun 18, 2012 at 08:36 PM
    He was military and, I believe, a reservist. Read the article before you make an erroneous comment.
    • reply
      by L. Frankfurter on Jun 19, 2012 at 09:50 AM in reply to Ann
      He wasn't over there in a military capacity, so the comment was not erroneous. Most of these contractors are ex-military.
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