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Silas L. Copeland was the third Sergeant Major of the Army. He was sworn in on October 1, 1970 and served until June, 1973. He was born in Embryfield, Texas (now Staley, Texas), on April 2, 1920, and died December 4, 2001 following a brief illness in Conroe, Texas.
After serving at various posts in CONUS, he was sent overseas in January 1945 and assigned to Company E, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, as a tank commander and later a tank platoon sergeant. In late 1945, he returned from Germany and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, where he became Operations and Intelligence Sergeant of the 67th Tank Battalion and 82d Reconnaissance Battalion. In 1950 he joined the 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, then located in Japan. From there, his unit was moved into Korea on July 18, 1950, making the landing by assault boats. He served as the Reconnaissance and Intelligence Platoon Sergeant and Battalion Operations Sergeant.
From 1951-1953, he was assigned to Senior ROTC duty at Texas A&M University. In 1953 was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry Regiment, Germany, as a first sergeant. He remained with that unit until November 1954 when he was reassigned to the 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas as Operations Sergeant and Sergeant Major of the 4th Tank Battalion. In 1957 he was selected as an instructor, Senior ROTC, Centenary College of Louisiana at Shreveport, Louisiana. Upon completion of his tour of duty at Centenary, he was assigned to the 3d Reconnaissance Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 8th Infantry Division in Germany as Sergeant Major and remained until he was reassigned to the 2d Armored Division, Fort Hood, Texas in October 1962.
Selected to be the division sergeant major in June 1963, he remained in that position until December 1966 when he was transferred to the 4th Armored Division in Germany. He was chosen to be the division Command Sergeant Major in April 1968 and served in that capacity until July 1969 when he was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam as the division Command Sergeant major of the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One). For seven and a half months he performed duties as the division CSM when the 1st Infantry Division re-deployed from Vietnam, he accompanied the division colors to Fort Riley, Kansas. He returned to Vietnam to complete his tour as division CSM of the 4th Infantry Division located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Awards and decorations
Sergeant Major Copeland's awards and decorations include the Disinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star (with V Device and four oak leaf clusters), Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (with award numeral 4, Army Commendation Medal (with oak leaf cluster), Good Conduct Medal (with silver loop and knots), American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Germany), National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Foreign unit and individual decorations include the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Service Medal (with two campaign stars), Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (2nd class), United Nations Korean Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal,