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If it was not for Zak telling me stories about his experiences in Vietnam and allowing me to attend the reunions with him, I would not have been able to share this story with you about finding Ed Kopec's grave. I would not have been able to make the connection to 3/3 and have it be as meaningful as it is… I would not have realized the significance of 18 Aug 65... nor would I be able to say I know some of Marines that knew and served with Ed and hear stories about him.
Republic of South Vietnam - August 1965
As I was growing up, my dad instilled in me many of the things he learned from the Marine Corps. Respect for those who wear a uniform. Love of our country, and to respect our freedom and to honor those who have fallen to provide that freedom.
If I did not learn those things, a trip to the cemetery for me would not be the same as it is now.
LCPL Robert ZAK Waszak, H&S Co. 3/3
Earlier this year, I was at one of the cemeteries, where I have family buried, to decorate the graves for Memorial Day. Generally, I know how many decorations I need to have but always buy extra. I usually end up "adopting" a few graves while I'm there. I tend to look for those that are military but seem to be unkempt. Obviously, my heart is close to the Marines but on occasion, it may be one of the other branches of the military.
Well, this time, my search guided me to a particular grave. I did not recognize the name Edward Kopec, but I did recognize something else... India Co, 3/3 and Aug 18 1965.
It was meant to be.
Now, every time I go to the cemetery, Ed Kopec will have a visitor.
And I would not have the honor to pay my respects to Ed, and in a way, to every Marine and Corpsman that participated in Operation Starlite.
He will never be forgotten. Ed is buried at St. Adalbert's Cemetery in Niles, IL.
My hero, passed away December 5, 2008
I miss you… I Love you Dad
Your little girl… Lee Ann