HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – The Seminole Tribe honored its sole active duty member for his service to the country on Monday.
Army Sgt. Gabriel Coppedge is currently serving in Kuwait, after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is the only active duty member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
He was honored Monday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood where he and his unit participated in the tribute ceremony via an interactive video teleconference. The tribute included all of Sgt. Coppedge’s family from both Florida and Arizona and was broadcast worldwide on the Armed Forces Network.
“It’s scary, but I’m proud of him,” Sgt. Coppedge’s mother Cheryl said. “I’m glad he’s over there and I support what he’s doing.”
The homage not only served as an opportunity to thank Sgt. Coppedge and the rest of the active troops for their hard work, sacrifice and dedication to our country, but also served as a 33rd birthday celebration for him.
In addition to the family and unit well wishes, the program also included a surprise personalized birthday greeting from various members of the Arizona Cardinals, Coppedge’s favorite sports team. The organization will be sending all of the soldiers in his unit Arizona Cardinals gear.
The United States and Seminole Tribe colors were presented by the Seminole Tribe of Florida Color Guard and The Red Boys pow-wow singers and Spencer Battiest will perform The National Anthem.
Sgt. Coppedge enlisted in the United States Army in 2001 and completed his basic training at Fort Benning, GA. He was assigned to Alpha Company 2nd Battalion, 30th infantry in Fort Polk, LA. Coppedge has served two tours in the Middle East, a tour in Afghanistan from 2006-2007 followed by a tour in Iraq from 2007-2008.
After an honorable discharge with the rank of E5, Coppedge re-enlisted with the Army Reserves. As a member of the Army Reserves, he volunteered for a mission originally intended for Iraq, but was then assigned to Kuwait after the mobilization process had begun.
“I miss him a lot and I’m proud of what he does and everything,” said Sgt. Coppedge’s daughter Koowachobe. “He means a lot. We want him to be safe.
The Seminole Tribe is also using the event to rally support for a Native American Veterans Memorial which seeks to honor past and present Native Americans who have served in all branches of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
“We were there, every conflict, but we have always been left out,” said Seminole Tribe Chairman Michael Cypress.
Sgt. Coppedge is currently the Postal Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge at the Naval Post in Kuwait. His family hadn’t seem him for more than a year until Monday’s ceremony.
For more information on this initiative please visit www.thenavmi.com.