Having a relative in any branch of the military is tough, especially for parents. They never know where their child will be sent next, much less for how long. Such is the case for a Water Valley mother whose son has been in the U.S. Army for 30 years and counting.
Donna Copeland said her son, Rex Copeland, enlisted when he was 17 years old and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He recently received the Superior Honor Award.
Donna said she and Rex’s father, Johnny Copeland, knew he’d be gone all the time, but supported his decisions in the end. Initially, they told their son they would not sign off on his enlistment until he graduated high school, which he did. From that point on, there would be years between each time they got to see him — the longest period being seven years.
“I knew he’d be gone all the time,” Donna said. “But you know God don’t let you have your children forever.”
Rex said he officially enlisted in June 1990. In 1991, he went into active duty and was sent to Korea. Most of his career has been spent overseas, most notably as a liaison between U.S. and Asian governments.
A fluent speaker in both Korean and Tagalog — a Filipino language — Rex said the Superior Honor Award was given to him through the Department of State for “establishing a new standard in efficiency in foreign assistance that would be continued across the Asian Pacific.”
After three decades, he is still enlisted in the U.S. Army as a foreign area officer, and is also the senior political-military adviser for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the Department of State.
Rex said his reasons for initially enlisting were so he could travel and pay for his education. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has an extensive educational background, spanning nearly 40 years. He has a master’s degree in Asian studies/civilization, a master’s degree in human relations, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice/law enforcement administration, an associate’s degree in Filipino/Tagalog language and literature, and an associate in general studies.
He sees his parents much more frequently now that he is stationed in Washington, D.C., but has no regrets in joining the military.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Rex said. “If I went back, I wouldn’t have the family and wife I have now.”