This is Memorial Day Week in the United States, a time that marks the traditional beginning of the summer season. Especially true here in coastal Delaware, that means the end of the school year, as well as the beginning of family vacation season and months of fun in the sun.
But Memorial Day is, and always should be, about honoring those who have served our country through the years and have not come home to their loves ones. Whether this be in a faraway land, or right here at home, or even on a ship in the middle of the ocean, this is a day when we remember the fallen.
Here in Sussex County, there’s perhaps no one who has done more to honor southern Delaware’s veterans, including those killed in action, that Korean War Veteran Walter Koopman.
Cape Gazette Photo
But he doesn’t just do so on Memorial Day; he does it each and every day of the year. He never forgets one of the most commonly referenced quotes on this incredibly special day of the year in the United States – “all gave some; some gave all.”
Largely responsible for the Korean War Memorial that today adorns the northeastern corner of The Circle in Georgetown, as well as the POW/MIA plaque nearby, Koopman is the Korean War Veterans programs director and is also a co-founder of Sussex County’s Wounded Warrior Fund.
But that’s merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to veteran’s projects Koopman’s is intimately involved with throughout the region.
Turning 81 this month (June), the U.S. Army veteran lives near Millsboro, coincidentally in a home that is currently listed and being shown by the Oldfather Group.
Koopman’s list of accomplishments, nearly all of them aimed at recognizing and honoring America’s veterans, are impressive to say the least.
Because of his efforts, he was presented with the prestigious Jefferson Award in 2012. He’s also a member of the American Legion, a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a lifetime member of the 25th Infantry Division, headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii.
For the 50th anniversary of the Korean War in 2003, Koopman also worked with officials from Dover to organize and present a public event remembering what is often called the “forgotten war” by historians.
But the project that today warrants the largest percentage of his time is one that he, along with the handful of other American war veterans who have put their time, their energy, and often their money behind, feels a deep sense of pride for.
And that is Sussex County’s Wounded Warrior Fund.
This ongoing program is multi-faceted and was the brainchild of a few good-hearted men sitting around the table at Koopman’s home one day a few years ago. To date, they have given away thousands of dollars in scholarships to the Junior ROTC programs at both Cape Henlopen and Sussex Central High Schools, and have supported several military and veteran’s organizations in or near southern Delaware.
Most recently, the group donated $30,000 to the Home of the Brave organization near Milford, money that is earmarked for the group’s new facility aimed at helping female veterans and their children.
And then there’s the event scheduled for Sept. 10 of this year, which Koopman is calling “the area’s largest indoor military honor day.” Scheduled for the CHEER Center in Georgetown, this special event will feature displays on every branch of the U.S. military, a special dedication and service honoring those lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and, hopefully, the traveling Vietnam War display, among other events and demonstrations.
These are but a few of the accomplishments for a man who has dedicated much of his life to honoring his fellow servicemen and women, which he has done selflessly and without regret for many years.
He says he would do it all again, and we have no doubt that he, in fact, would do just that.
God bless you Mr. Koopman and please accept our heartfelt thanks for your service, both on active duty and beyond. We could sure use a lot more men just like you!