[at-l] Thought you all would like to read this
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Fri Jan 5 14:58:22 CST 2007
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A Marine's solemn farewell
Koprince, 24, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq two days after Christmas
By MATT LAKIN, lakinm at knews.com
January 5, 2007
LENOIR CITY - His comrades called him a model Marine.
His family and friends called him Billy.
"I watched him grow up," said Sherry Lenderman, a family friend. "To me,
he's a little boy still. He's Bill and Bernice's boy."
Lenderman and about 900 others turned out Thursday night for the funeral of
Lance Cpl. William Craig "Billy" Koprince Jr., the local Marine killed two
days after Christmas in Iraq.
"He was a good Marine, a good son and a good friend," said his father, Bill.
"He wanted to be a grunt, and he wore that name proudly."
Koprince, 24, died Dec. 27 when a roadside bomb exploded as he walked a foot
patrol near Al Habbaniyah in Iraq's Anbar province. He'd been stationed
there since July on his second tour of duty with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd
Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division of the II Marine Expeditionary Force,
and would have come home in February.
His death made him the 64th service member from Tennessee killed in the war,
which so far has claimed more than 3,000 American lives.
Koprince was the only Marine killed in the attack - and the first member of
his platoon to fall, said his platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Matthew Adleta.
Adleta spent days at a time on patrols with Koprince before coming back to
the United States this fall to prepare for the battalion's return.
"We had to be ready at a moment's notice to take down a house full of
insurgents, but at the same time we were handing out soccer balls to the
kids," the lieutenant said. "He was always the one you could turn to if you
needed something done. He did what he needed to do and what he didn't have
to do. I wouldn't have hesitated for any minute to put my life in his
Koprince was born in the suburbs of Detroit but grew up here in Loudon
County, graduating from Lenoir City High School in 2001. He joined the
Marines in September 2003 as part of a plan to turn his life around, family
"He wanted to make us proud, and he did," said his aunt, Norma Patterson.
"He really did. He'd come full circle in his life."
Friends and strangers filed through the sanctuary of First Baptist Church at
Thursday night's service to say goodbye. They stood in a line that stretched
around the sanctuary, sharing hugs and tears with the family and swapping
stories about the young man they remembered - his jokes, his soft-spoken
manner, his hikes on the Appalachian Trail.
"He was exceptional in that quiet, confident way," his lieutenant said.
"When he said something, he gave a boost to everybody around him."
They walked past family souvenirs and photos - the Marine as a baby in his
mother's arms, as a blond-haired boy at play in the back yard, as a recruit
at boot camp - to the casket, topped with his dress uniform hat and draped
with an American flag. The walking stick he whittled and carried on hikes
leaned against it.
"My family and I know Billy did not die in vain," said his sister, Morgan
Moore. "Billy, I always thought the world of you. Even though I never told
you, I am very proud that you were and are my big brother."
Burial will be today at 11 a.m. in Kingston Memorial Gardens with full
military honors. Police and the Patriot Guard Riders, a patriotic military
group, will escort the procession along U.S. Highway 321 and Interstate 40
to the cemetery on Lawnville Road.
"I'd like to see the streets lined up with citizens," said Duane Romine, the
group's ride captain. "We're hoping to send this hero out with all the honor
and respect that any hero should receive."
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