Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

JAMES COOPER - A WIDOW'S STORY

MORE THAN JUST A NAME ON THE WALL


War is a horrible thing.  When you are a twenty-year-old bride and your prince and the love of your life is nearly half way around the world, it is a long and lonely time.  Dianne Cooper loved her husband James more than anyone she had ever loved.  To this day, more than forty-six years later, after an exploding grenade ended their fairy tale love, Dianne still remembers the twinkle in his eye and cherishes the love they shared a lifetime ago.

With the coming of the Moving Vietnam Wall to Dublin a few weeks ago, those cherished memories burst forth once again.  Memories of the days of waiting, hungering for his touch, waiting, waiting, for her darling prince to come home to her flashed through her mind as if it was 1968 all over again.

Dianne sat down and remembered the grand times before Vietnam and the lonesome days after James had to go away;


"When the moving wall arrived in Dublin, it inspired me to write my story.  

James and I became engaged during Christmas of 1965.  He was the man of my dreams.  We married on August 12, 1966.  I was 18 and he was 22.  As my father escorted me to him the night of our wedding, I thought "finally we are going to be together forever."

Mr. and Mrs. James Cooper left that night for our honeymoon in a brand new automobile - a gold Plymouth Fury right off the show room floor!  Someone had written on the windows - JUST MARRIED! WATCH GEORGIA GROW!  Tin cans were tied to the back.  We rode down what was called "the strip" in our town of Dublin.  Then we headed to Savannah.  We stayed at the Thunderbird Inn.  They welcomed us with moon pies and RC colas.

In the early spring of 1967, James received the letter informing him that he was being drafted.  He was sent to Ft. Benning for training, then received orders for Vietnam.  When he arrived there, I began to receive letters.  He told me he was at a base camp, weapons platoon, living in a tent and it was so hot.  But he would always tell me that he was okay.

I wrote him daily while counting the days as the song rang over in my head, Unchained Melody, Wait for me I'll be home.

In late December 1967, he received a week of R&R in Hawaii.  I couldn't wait to board the plane to see him!  It would be our last Christmas together.  After a wonderful week together, with bags packed, it was time to say goodbye again. He called a cab to take him to the airport.  He would not let me go.  We both fervently waved as I stood on the balcony looking down and he stood on the street looking up at me.  Afterwards, it was like he was thinking that we would never see each other again.  I cried for days on end.  I tried to think positive and focus my thought that he would be home in July.

In the late afternoon of May 9, 1968, my world shattered.  Two men in uniform knocked on my parent's door.  They came in, took their hats off and asked me to have a seat.  I immediately asked, "what is it?"  All I remember was that he said, "Your husband has been killed."  The song, Unchained Melody ended.  No more waiting.  A widow at 20.

It took two weeks to get his body home.  We had lots of friends and family who came to support us.  He was buried with full military honors.

In his last letter he talked about coming home to me and his family and how he couldn't wait to see us when he got off the plane.  Oh, to read his letter what he was saying and knowing he was gone.  It was the worst time ever in my life.

Although after 46 years, I have moved on with my life.  I still miss James to this day.  I remember the twinkle in his eye and will always cherish the love we shared.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal.

My eight-year old granddaughter looked at our wedding pictures and asked me if that was a crown I was wearing. I said yes, I was his princess and he was my prince.  It was a true fairy tale that ended too soon.


You will find SP4 James E. Cooper on Line 37 of Panel 56E on the wall.

He for me, was more than just a name on the wall."


There are nearly 58,300 names carved on the reflective black, 493- foot Vietnam Wall.  There are ten thousand fold more victims of that war: parents, wives, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Dianne is one of those victims.  She still carries the scars of her fallen hero and prince.  For those of us who didn't lose a friend, a relative or a husband, we can not begin to fathom the unbearable pain, the endless loneliness, and the urge to be bitter.

In a small way, maybe the coming of the wall to Dublin can begin to heal the wounds of those who lost something of themselves back in the dismal days of the war in Vietnam.  For those who did lose loved ones, rest assured that the more than 15,000 people who came to the wall at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center came there to pay their deeply sincere respects of eternal gratitude and abiding love to more than just the names on the wall.

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