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Rest in peace Gerran Clayton Copeland

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ali Flisek
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
Gerran Clayton Copeland, 17, died Aug. 19 when a drunk driver struck his bicycle near Highway 98 in Navarre. The Florida Highway Patrol reported Gerran was riding his bike westbound along Highway 98 on the unpaved section of the road when he was hit by a 1999 Ford van driven by Anthony Griego, 21 from Texas. 

Gerran was hit by the right front side of the van and was thrown into a nearby ditch. 

He reportedly died at the scene. The drunk driver didn't' stop after hitting him, but continued onto a convenience store on Coral Street, where he was then arrested by the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office for driving under the influence and manslaughter. 

A memorial service held to celebrate the life of Gerran Aug. 22 in the Hurlburt chapel was standing room only. Chaplain (Maj.) Bob Collins, 1st Special Operations Wing chapel, apologized to the crowd. 

"If anyone has come here to mourn, I am sorry. We are here to celebrate his life," Chaplain Collins said. 

During the ceremony, sounds of singing, crying, and laughter echoed throughout the chapel as friends and family shared memories. 

"It feels like a really bad storm right now. I miss my little buddy," said retired Chief Master Sergeant Greg Copeland, Gerran's father. 

Members of the Hurlburt Special Operations Youth group gatherednear the stage in a massive hug and prayer as Gerran's favorite song played aloud during the ceremony. 

"I wish I would have hugged my brother more," said Ashleigh, Gerran's sister. 

Gerran Copeland would have started his senior year at Navarre High School Aug. 20. 

He was a devout Christian, and positive role model to his peers as a member of the youth leadership team at the Hurlburt Field Chapel. 

In 2006, Gerran won the Angel Volunteer Award in the youth category, logging more than 230 volunteer service hours. 

At the age of 13, he flew a Cessna C-172 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. 

His name has been permanently entered in the world's largest logbook at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis. 

"Gerran was such a beautiful person, I'll never be the same because of that young man," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Tinnon, 1st SOW chapel.