Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Army Sgt. 1st Class David A. Cooper Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class David A. Cooper Jr., 36, of State College, Pa.

SFC Cooper was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Sept. 5, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, from a non-combat related injury.

The Olympian -- A Fort Lewis soldier died Wednesday in Iraq from a non-combat-related injury, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Sgt. 1st Class David A. Cooper Jr., 36, of State College, Pa., died in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis.

The circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation.

Cooper had a long history with Fort Lewis.

He was assigned to the post in 1997 and served there with the 1st Battalion, 33rd Armor Regiment as an armor crewman; with the 2nd Battalion, 358th Armor Regiment as an observer- controller/trainer; and with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment as a platoon sergeant.

The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment later was re- designated 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) and deployed to Iraq in April. Cooper had served with the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment since January.

According to unit records, Cooper entered military service in 1988. He reported for his current term of active service in 1994, when he reported to the 520th Maintenance Company in Korea for a one-year tour as a material storage and handling specialist.

In 1995, he reported to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served as an automated logistical specialist. He reported to Fort Knox, Ky., to attend the Armor Crewmember Qualification Course in 1996.

Cooper's military and civilian education includes the Warrior Leader Course (1995), Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course (1999), Basic Instructor Training (2001), Hygiene and Sanitation Training (2002), 270 credit hours of Army correspondence coursework, and 66 semester hours of college coursework.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal (five awards), Army Superior Unit Award (two awards), Army Good Conduct Medal (four awards), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Korea Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (two awards) and Army Service Ribbon.

Local soldier dies in Iraq
Former State College resident's sons attend BEA
By Chris Rosenblum

Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper Jr. died doing the only job he ever wanted.

Serving in Iraq with the Army's 4th Stryker Brigade, Cooper, 36, was killed Wednesday in Baghdad from a noncombat injury, according to the Department of Defense.

Cooper, a decorated soldier, left behind a wife, Michelle Cooper, at Fort Lewis, Wash. His twin 16-year-old sons from his first marriage live near Port Matilda and attend Bald Eagle Area High School.

A platoon commander, Cooper had served in the military since 1988, a year before he graduated from the former Sugar Valley High School in Loganton. His brigade, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, arrived in April for its first deployment of the war.

His death is under investigation, and details were not disclosed. Cooper became the brigade's 21st casualty since it left Fort Lewis.

"A soldier first, above anything," said Tracy Cornwell, whose five-year marriage to Cooper ended in 1995. "That's all he ever wanted to be. That was from the time he was a little boy. That was always one thing that always made me proud of him, that he was doing what he wanted to do and he was very good at it."

The military has identified Cooper as a State College resident, but Cornwell said they lived there while married. She said Cooper's death was not from a vehicle accident but declined to elaborate.

Cooper had been based at Fort Lewis for the past 10 years, but he visited his sons, Gage and Drake Cooper, at least once a year at his parents' blueberry farm in Rauchtown, near Jersey Shore.

David Cooper Sr. recalled that his son and grandsons would hole up in the basement "dungeon," laughing and playing with their computers, video games and widescreen TV. "They'd stay there all day long," Cooper said. "They'd come up for a meal, then disappear down there."

Cornwell said her sons enjoyed a close relationship with their father, despite the distance between them.

"You wouldn't have known that they didn't see each other very often," she said. "He was a very good dad."

Cooper said his son was also a bookworm whose love of history, particularly about World War II and the Korean War, dated back to his days in his school district's gifted program.

"He was very well read," Cooper said. "He was very conversant in any world issue you would want to discuss. ... I always wanted to be on his side in trivia games."

At an early age, his son eyed the military. Plastic soldiers were his favorite toys, and he wore his treasured Army coat to his first day of school.

Joining the Reserves initially, Cooper began his active duty career in 1994 with the 520th Maintenance Company in Korea as a material storage and handling specialist. After a stint at Fort Drum, N.Y., he trained at Fort Knox, Ky., and went on to serve as an armor crewman and, with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a platoon sergeant.

The tank regiment was renamed the 4th Stryker Brigade. In January this year, Cooper joined the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.

His wife told The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., that Cooper had planned to return to Washington in six weeks on leave.

She also told The Tribune that her husband was "a true leader of men and was deeply respected by his men and his peers. He didn't have a mean bone in his body."

Cooper's father said his son was all soldier on duty, once jumping out of his car at Fort Knox to rebuke a young enlisted man shuffling along with headphones on and his shirttail out. But on his own time, Cooper displayed a "wicked" sense of humor.

"When it came to his job and his men, he was very serious," David Cooper Sr. said. "He was very intense. When he was outside his work, he was the most hilarious guy."

Cooper's body will be flown from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base and then transported to Jersey Shore. Funeral details are pending. His only sibling, Germany-based Army Staff Sgt. Mike Cooper, will accompany his older brother to Arlington National Cemetery for a Sept. 17 burial.

There, Gage and Drake Cooper will say goodbye to their hero. Soccer players and band members now, they plan on following his footsteps into the Army.

"I never had to tell them anything about their father," David Cooper Sr. said. "They knew him well."

Army Sgt. 1st Class David A. Cooper Jr. was killed in action on 9/5/07.

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