Retired Army Sgt. Charles Copeland was surprised when Rep. Joe Heck presented him a Memorial Day award Saturday, and then again when he was presented with a new Chevrolet Silverado.
But he didn’t tear up until Findlay Chevrolet gave his 3-year-old daughter a car of her own — a motorized toy Corvette.
Copeland, along with retired Marine Sgt. Dylan Gray, did not suspect that both would drive away with new vehicles courtesy of Findlay Chevrolet in the dealership’s second annual car giveaway.
“It was more powerful this year, and it was a blessing to see how our community gathered together to serve the veterans,” General Manager Jamaal McCoy said.
Both Copeland and Gray, who was given a 2014 Cruze sedan, were nominated by different veterans organizations.
At first, Gray thought he was only invited to the ceremony to receive an award from Heck, R-Nev., while Gray thought he was only surprising Copeland with the Silverado’s keys.
In 2008, Copeland was serving his second deployment in Iraq when five others with him were killed in an attack. According to Family Readiness Group, which nominated Copeland, he sustained a traumatic brain injury and shrapnel wounds.
In the nomination application, Adriana Copeland, his wife, said he traded in his 2003 Silverado when he returned from Iraq to buy her a car, which due to injuries, he was not able to drive.
“I didn’t want her riding the bus anymore,” Copeland said.
Adriana Copeland said her husband initially felt more guilt than pain when he returned home in 2008 until the injuries caught up to him. Copeland had back surgery four days ago and pain was apparent as he used a walker Saturday.
Gray lost his legs in an IED attack during his third deployment in Iraq in 2007.
Since returning home, he has kept busy helping other veterans. He educates employers to establish a job connection with returning veterans.
Retired Marine Capt. Dave Austin of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which nominated Gray, commended Gray’s work with veterans in the Green Zone Initiative, a Nevada Department of Veterans Services program.
“It’s great; it’s a very big surprise,” Gray said. “I truly appreciate it; it’s a blessing.”
With Memorial Day approaching, Heck spoke about the importance of honoring those who have and continue to serve in the armed forces.
He said that one must take a moment away from Memorial Day celebrations “to remember those who have given their last full measure of devotion to this nation.”
Contact Ricardo Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites.