By Adam Geller
The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Sep 14, 2012
Staring out the window of his pickup, slowly trailing the hearse bearing his brother’s body, Will Copes’ eyes blurred with tears. In a few minutes he and his brother would be home, back to a town preoccupied with the first week of school and plans for weekend barbecues. A place far removed from an unrelenting, but all too easily forgotten war.
“It looked like people were lined up for the Christmas parade, but they were there for my brother — and for us,” Copes says, his voice breaking as he recounts the Aug. 24 procession down Main Street in Altavista, Va. A week after Staff Sgt. Greg Copes, 36, and a Navy corpsman were killed by an Afghan police officer they’d been training, his casket was met by firefighters flying the Stars and Stripes from atop a ladder truck. Hundreds in the town of 3,500 lined the curb to pay respects. At Altavista’s high school, students and teachers filed from their classrooms, framing the parking lot in a corridor of honor.
“I saw kids waving flags. I saw kids crying,” Will Copes says. “If they had forgotten, they had been woken up by a lightning bolt. ... And I think that happens around the country, every day.”
“People don’t understand. We’re not fighting it on our soil,” says Geraldine McClain of Rochester Hills, Mich., whose son, Army Spc. Kyle McClain, was killed Aug. 1 when an improvised explosive device detonated in Kandahar province. He’d been in Afghanistan just six weeks. “They’re enjoying their life, eating out, going to soccer. They fill up their car and gripe about gas. Unless they’ve been touched by a soldier’s life, they take it for granted.”
That is, until a community must welcome a dead soldier home.
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