WILLIAM ROY COPLEN-WATT, FIRST LIEUTENANT, U.S. ARMY, SWEETWATER, NOLAN COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Combat Infantryman Badge, Silver Star, Bronze Star with "V" device and oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam Campaign Medal.
William Roy Coplen-Watt was born in Sweetwater, Texas. His mother and step-father were Mr. and Mrs. Ray Coplen. Mrs. Coplen divorced Roy's father when he was young and never told him about his real father. She married Mr. Coplen and Roy as he preferred to be called, assumed that he was his father until he was drafted into the Army and then found out about his father. He had gone through school as Roy Coplen and that was how his friends and classmates knew him. Since Mr. Coplen had not adopted him, he reverted to his real name for legal reasons. Roy has a brother, Roger D. and a sister, Nelda Kay Coplen. He has siblings of his biological father that he never knew or met. His biological father, Carl Watt, was an ex marine who became a police officer in Dallas. He paid his respects to his son after his body returned from Vietnam.
He was all around growing up. His mother indicated he like to play Army and loved the outdoors. He loved poetry and loved to write short stories and poetry. He was active in sports and was a three-year letterman on the Sweetwater High School football team. According to the family, he held several class offices and was voted as a class favorite. He graduated from Sweetwater High School, Class of 1965. After high school he attended DeVry Technical Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He was working and taking classes at the time, he was drafted into the Army in January 1966.
Sweetwater High School, Class of 65
He completed basic training and infantry AIT at Fort Hood, Texas. He was accepted for Officer Candidate School and he entered the Infantry OCS program at Fort Benning, Georgia. He completed OCS and was commissioned a 2LT, Infantry on February 27, 1967. He completed the Organizational Maintenance Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He then completed jungle training in Panama and then departed for Vietnam on December 2, 1967. He was assigned as a Platoon Leader for A Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, First Air Cavalry Division.KIA while serving as a Private First Class with B CO, 4TH BN, 9TH INFANTRY, 25TH INF DIV, USARV, Army of the United States from Chico, California.September 10, 1947 to January 06, 1968. MICHAEL F WALKER is on the Wall at Panel 33E, Line 61. May his sacrifice not be forgotten.
On February 29, 1968 during the TET offensive, his company was engaged in a fierce firefight with NVA regulars in the Thua Thien Province. His company lost control of the area they were defending due to having engaged a superior number of enemy troops. They were being surrounded and virtually cut off, so they had to pull out. Lt. Watt was not among the company when they regrouped. Reports were received from fellow soldiers that Lt Watt had attempted to rescue a wounded soldier and he had been shot in the chest by a machine gun. Upon returning to the area the next day, Lt. Watt was found dead from gunshot wounds. He had been promoted to First Lieutenant four days before his death and had turned 21 years old the month before. Lt. Watt had attempted to carry a wounded soldier out of the area when he was cut down. For this action he was awarded a posthumous Silver Star. He had been awarded a posthumous bronze star with "V" device for actions taking place on February 8, 1967 while serving with the same unit.
Lt. Watt was buried in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Sweetwater, Texas with full military honors.
Lt. Coplen-Watt had written his parents shortly before his death:
"I deem it an honor to die in service of America. To die a soldier's death is to die the best death." He added...."I had a short but full satisfying life. If I didn't live long enough to be one of life's great success stories, , then, at least I didn't live to be a dismal failure."
In Lt. Coplen-Watt's personal effects that arrived after his funeral, there was a typed note found with the following:
"That is to say, history is judging the conflict that killed me. That is one reason why I am a firm proponent of the gradual, almost imperceptible, escalation of this war. Because what today seems like a snail's pace, will in fifty or a hundred years, look like calculated agression in the history books, in that was first my duty, and also my belief. I hope, I died in combat, I hope I died like a man, and not like a dog, run down in the street, or killed by my own carelessness on some booby trap, or some jungle fever. If you read this, I hope with everything in me, that you read about a soldier killed in combat, in performance of his duty, and not about someone who cut his finger on a C-rations can, got blood poisoning and died with his boots off. I guess, in fine John Wayne tradition, I would like to go with guns blazing, contempt on my face for the enemy, a curse on my lips, and a smile on my face, as my last breath passed my lips. So, fantasy is upon us again. However. I am dead. Cut, shot, blown up, infected, drowned, whatever, I am dead. My epitaph will read:"
So Much Do I Love Wandering,
So Much Do I Love The Sea and Sky;
That It will Be a Piteous Thing,
In One Small Grave To Lie"
"The Wanderer" by Zoe Atkins.
Garden of Memories Cemetery, Sweetwater, Texas
In May, 1968, in a ceremony at the Reservice Officer's Training Corps of Hardin Simmon's University in Abilene, Texas, Roy's mother, Mrs. Coplen was presented the posthumous medals and awards from Col Johnny M. Rice, Professor of Military Science at HSU. The awards included the Silver Star for heorism involving the events leading to his death on February 29, 1968, Bronze Star for heroism for events on Febuary 8, 1968 and a Meritorious Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart for wounds he received which lead to his death. Mrs Coplen also received his Combat Infantryman's Badge, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Ribbon. The South Vietnamese Government awarded him the Cross of Gallantry with Palm.
His mother, stepfather, brother and sister survived him. His stepfather passed away in 1982 and his mother continues to live in the house in which Lt. Watt had grown up. His brother lives in Clyde, Texas and his sister is a registered nurse in Sweetwater. Mrs. Coplen is a four star mother and is president of the American Legion Auxiliary and is active in the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars in Sweetwater and also volunteers for senior citizen's work.