My grandfather remembered on Veterans Day

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My grandfather (affectionately called “Papa” by myself and my children) served in World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart. He had shrapnel from bullets lodged inside him till the day he died.

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I am so proud of what he did and what he accomplished!

However, I’ll always remember him a bit differently.

I remember him for how he loved to mow his lawn, and tend to his fruitful gardens (I wish I had pictures of some of his bigger and more beautiful gardens. This one pictured below is so tiny in comparison).

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I remember him for how he spent years clearing out a beautiful wooded nature trail on his property. I walked on the trail many times… It was far superior to a trail you might find at a park.

I remember him for how he loved spending entire days watching skydivers falling in their brightly colored parachutes at the airport. He would find such joy in that.

I remember him for how he became friends with everyone he met.

I remember how easygoing he was. I never heard him raise his voice.

I remember him for his love for photography.

I remember him for his soft chuckle, and warm smile.

I remember him for being a kind and caring grandpa to his great grandchildren.

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I wish he could have been alive to see my last three children (he only got to meet my first three). They loved going on frequent visits to Papa’s house. Many times, we went to see the skydivers with him. Caleb and Bonnie loved that.

I remember him as the man who loved working on appliances. He fixed my washer and dryer more than once after I was married.

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This is where my grandpa worked for years with my father decades ago.

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I have fond memories of spending days with my “papa” as a child,

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and as an adult.

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I remember how all of his clothes smelled like fresh sunshine and cut grass, because he hung them on the clothesline outside.

I remember hearing his windchimes and the fan blowing in the house on summer days.

I remember getting to take rides on his tractor with him, and picking fresh produce from his garden. Eating warm ripe tomatoes (like you would an apple )is one of the best things ever.

My grandpa was the subject of many drawings that I did while he was still alive. One of the drawings was one of the stages of his life and given to him as a gift, either for Christmas or his birthday… I can’t remember which.

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He was one of my biggest fans. Whenever he would take me somewhere, he would tell everyone, “Did you know she is an artist? You need to see her work!”

I remember his beautiful white house with rows of vividly colored flowers which he planted faithfully every year. These were a huge attraction for anyone who passed by. It was like a beautiful rainbow of flowers.

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My grandfather had one son, and that was my father.

My father sent me some of his recollections of his father, which I’ll share here:

Winford Lee Coppock
1926 – 2009
My dad has always been an inspiration to me and I always knew he loved me above anything else. I can tell you that his service in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946 was exemplary and he shared with me a couple of stories that I can remember. He served in the 63rd Infantry Division, Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 255th Infantry Regiment until its deactivation in 1945 where he was transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division for the remainder of his overseas service in occupied Germany.

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One story he liked to share was how he came to be wounded. He says that during a particular battle in France, just before the push over the Siegfried Line his unit came under fire by the German Army. At that time my dad was operating as an anti-tank gunner; they began shelling his position with German 88mm anti-tank/anti –aircraft artillery guns. They began returning fire on the Germans for quite some time, when it was realized that the Germans had located their positions and were firing much closer to his position.

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He says a round landed very close and he wound up on the ground. He and his fellow soldiers ran to a small building in a pasture and went to the basement for cover. After some time, he says the medics came in to ask if anyone had been hit. He says he asked one of the medics to check the back of his shirt and he says he did not remember anything after that point until he woke up in a hospital in France.

At the hospital in France, he recounts how the German prisoners were used to move patients and perform details necessary to support the doctors and nurses and especially how they always marched in step (known as the “Goosestep”). He stayed in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then was allowed to return to his unit after the breakthrough of the Siegfried Line.

After the war was over, and victory declared, he continued in support of post-war operations in occupied Germany until he was demobilized and completed his two year tour of duty and returned to his home in Vinemont, Alabama.

He also told me of his riding into some of the concentration camps where the emaciated Jewish people were being held. He recounts how they were told not to give them too much to eat or it might kill them. He did operate to help with processing the Jewish people out of the camps, and never seemed to really grasp the great honor that it was to be able to free these people from the Nazi scum that held them. I used to tell him that I was very proud that he helped write history, but he never really touted his service or his efforts to help the refugees.

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One additional note of importance; When he was wounded in battle in France, they never removed all the shrapnel that was throughout his body. When he passed away in May of 2009, he still carried pieces of the German 88mm shell in his body. He used to joke that whenever he would get an X-Ray, his doctor would ask him if he had something in his shirt pocket, but it was the shrapnel that remained.

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He is my hero and it was his and his fellow soldiers that inspired me to join the Army and be able to serve during a time of peace.
Rest in Peace, Winford Lee Coppock.

Brian Coppock

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