Gregory T. Copes had one mission throughout his life, according to his family: live life to the fullest.
The 36-year-old Marine and Lynch Station, Va., native cherished his wife and four children. He reveled in his beloved rock and country music. He never said no to a good time or a good laugh.
He had been looking forward to coming home from his latest deployment in Afghanistan in early September and spending time with his family, his brother Earl Copes said.
Staff Sgt. Copes was was killed Aug. 17 by a member of the Afghan military in a “green-on-blue attack” in the Farah province, according to a report from the Marine Corps Times. He was among two area service members to die in Afghanistan in the past week.
Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick D. Feeks, 28, of Edgewater died Aug. 16 along with several others in a helicopter crash northeast of Kandahar.
Earl, Greg’s older brother, said Copes first expressed an interest in the military when the two attended high school at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. But the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks were a turning point for Copes. “He wanted to be part of something greater than an office job,” Earl said.
Copes pored over books, absorbing information about the service and trying to identify the unit best suited for him. He joined the Marines in 2003 as a machine gunner. He was 28. He went on to become a critical skills operator in 2009, deploying twice for training missions in Mauritania, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to the Marine Times.
His latest deployment had him helping train local Afghans and police on how to protect themselves. His fellow troops lovingly called him “Old Man Copes.”
“He knew what he was getting into . . . he was committed,” his brother said.
Copes’s death has left “a hole in our lives that can’t be replaced,” his brother said.
“We take for granted what [Greg] and all the other servicemen and women have done, as well as the families that have sacrificed a loved one or have loved ones deployed. . . . He’s truly missed,” Earl said.
Feeks was based in Coronado, Calif., had enlisted in March 2006 and was assigned to SEAL Team 3 in May 2008. He was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2010 and had been in Afghanistan since December, according to a Baltimore Sun article.
He graduated from South River High School in 2002. School administrators said one of Feeks’s favorite quotes from the 2002 yearbook was: “When the impossible has been accomplished the only reward is another mission no one else will try.”
A statement from Feeks’s family said he loved being a SEAL and “was the type of man that would inspire everyone else around him.”
“He was a true friend and warrior — no one could ever question his integrity and commitment to his family and country,” the family said.
He is survived by his parents, Thomas and Virginia, and by his wife, Emily.