The next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself for whatever reason, you might want to think about the life of former Amsterdam resident Edward Kopik, Jr. Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant wasn’t born in the Rug City. He was instead a native of Herkimer. His Dad, Edward Kopik Sr. was a US Army Veteran of WWII who had married Amsterdam native Edna Zupkivic in July of 1946. The new Mrs. Kopik had also served her country in WWII as a member of the Women’s Army Corp. After their honeymoon, the couple resided in Herkimer, where Ed Sr. was employed at the Remington Arms plant in nearby Ilion, NY. Edward Jr. was their first born on August 4, 1948. They then had a daughter they named Linda.
Just after Christmas in 1956, Edward Kopik Sr. died suddenly at the age of 48. With no other relatives in Herkimer, Edna took her two children and returned to Amsterdam, where young Edward attended St. Joseph’s School and then Wilbur Lynch High School. The now fatherless boy got involved in scouting for a while but I could not find evidence that he was involved in sports, music or drama activities during his early years. It looks as if he enlisted in the US Marine Corps just a week after he turned 18 years of age, on August 11, 1964, without first graduating from Lynch. Perhaps he was determined to follow his parents example by serving his country during wartime. At the time he signed up, America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict was about to be expanded exponentially, and after completing four weeks of special jungle warfare training, it was clear that Kopik was about to find himself in the thick of the inevitable fighting.
After spending a thirty-day leave back home in Amsterdam, this brave young man said good-bye to his mom and sister and was shipped out with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and stationed at the Da Nang Air Base in February of 1966. Just four months later, on June 1, 1966, Kopik was on patrol near Da Nang when he encountered an explosive device. Pfc. Kopik suffered multiple fragmentation wounds to both his legs and arms and these injuries proved fatal. He became the third Amsterdam resident to make the supreme sacrifice in Vietnam. His body was returned to Amsterdam for burial in St. Casmir’s Cemetery. This young hero lost his dad at the age of eight and his own life at the age of eighteen. We honor his memory on what would have been Edward Kopik’s 71st birthday. May he now be at total peace in a better place.