Family of Oklahoma contractor who died in Iraq seeks help getting his body returned
Tulsa World, Okla.
Family members of a civilian contractor who died in Iraq this month are asking for government officials to put pressure on the Iraqi government to release the body to them.
Michael David Copeland - from Colbert in southern Oklahoma, who served in the Marines and with the Oklahoma Air National Guard - was found dead June 9 in his living quarters in Baghdad. His cause of death has not been released, said Ashley Burke, the vice president of communication for DynCorp International, the company at which Copeland worked.
Michael Wayne Copeland, his father, said his family has spoken with officials from the U.S. State Department and the congressional delegation, but he hasn't seen results.
"Everyone is sorry for our loss and his concern; however, his remains are still in Baghdad," his father said. "All we're interested in is knowing what happened to him and getting him home to lay him to rest."
Copeland's father said he was contacted June 9 by DynCorp officials and notified of his son's death. He said his son had been in Iraq working as an airplane mechanic about a week before his death.
Copeland, 37, served two tours of duty with the Marines before he left and joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard, where he served on another tour. His total military career spanned 13 years, his father said.
He said his son spent the last year in Afghanistan and was home briefly before he left to Iraq.
Copeland got married about a year ago, his father said.
What is most frustrating to his father is what remains unknown. He said he spoke to his son hours before the company said a co-worker found Copeland unresponsive.
"If he died of natural causes, why on earth would they not send him home," his father said. "Why let suspicion build?"
According to a release from the State Department, Iraqi law requires an autopsy be performed before remains are allowed to leave the country.
Burke said officials with DynCorp are working "diligently with the U.S. Department of State and the Government of Iraq to ensure that Mr. Copeland's return home occurs as expeditiously as possible."
Officials are waiting for the Iraqi government to approve the release of his remains for transport back to the U.S.
State Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, said Tuesday that Gov. Mary Fallin and the state's congressional delegation should pressure the Iraqi government to release Copeland's body back to his family.
"Michael David Copeland was a man who served our nation as a Marine and our state as a National Guardsman, and his family deserves better than this," Roberts said.
Jared Young, communications director for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's office, said officials have been working since last week to return the body to Oklahoma.