By Bob Alvis
Tragedy can happen at any time and any place. Just over a year ago that’s just what happened when two visitors who called our Valley home were tragically lost in an accident that shook the many that served and worked with them at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on the JSF F-35 Lightning II program.
Cpl. Sean Cooper and his wife Lucy were here in the Antelope Valley, on assignment from the United Kingdom, with the Royal Air Force’s No. 17 Squadron at Edwards, the flight test team developing the F-35B for use with the Royal Air Force and Navy.
On a recent Friday morning, under beautiful skies here in the Antelope Valley, a special program was presented that paid tribute to the two fallen as the Royal Air Force detachment, along with the Royal Navy detachment, turned out in number for a very special unveiling of a memorial plaque. The plaque was made possible with the cooperation of the Lancaster Cemeteries Friends of Lancaster Cemetery, and the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel at Edwards.
Dayle Debry and Karla Archuleta, working with RAF Wg. Cmdr. Adam Curd put forth a remembrance program that honored Sean and Lucy and gave them a place in our community so that generations in the future will always know that they were our neighbors and a valued part of our community.
Words cannot tell of the amazing sights and sounds as our two nations came together. Flt. Sgt. Christopher Harker called out orders to begin the parade with the Navy and Air Force flights, marching from the east and west, met at parade ground center in a display of precision marching in the best tradition of the British military.
When the two flights came together, Harker called for the presentation of colors and the U.S. Air Force Color Guard from Edwards marched to parade center. In a sight that moved this soul, the British Flag took its place between the U.S. Flag and that of the U.S. Air Force.
With Curd and Navy Warrant Officer Anthony Fisher marching to the podium, in front of the monument to our World War II servicemen and women, they took their place in front of the colors of their country and service and paid respects to the fallen that touched the hearts of everyone in attendance.
The words of United States reserve Chaplin (Maj.) Kenneth Valardi reminded us of all of the gifts of life beyond this world and gave us the comfort of knowing that we will one day be reunited, and the tears erased.
Curd shared many aspects of the young corporal and his wife, and the impact they had on squadron morale and our local community. It was shared that Lucy was a lover of animals and was working for a local veterinarian at the time of her death and that Sean and she had a special family dog named Coops that was always by their sides as that beloved family pet. On the night of their passing and as Sean was in the hospital, the RAF and Navy lined the halls of the hospital and one member of the detachment snuck in Coops for one last moment to say goodbye. Some things are universal and even in the military world, there comes that moment when the simple love of a pet and a pet’s love for its owner transcends the tragedies of everyday life.
Sean and Lucy were taken back home to be laid to rest in the green fields and hills of their beloved England. We here in America mourn the loss felt by their families and those that worked and served with them and pray that peace finds the hearts of all those who were touched by their lives. May it be a bit of comfort to those so far away that we here in the Antelope Valley will always remember the names we see on this remembrance in the Veterans Court of Honor, where their memories will be cared for by future generations. It gives us here in the Antelope Valley and the United States some peace of mind to know that Sean and Lucy’s beloved Coops is at home with their family in England and passing along the love to those who lost their loved ones.
A very special day at Lancaster Cemetery and a moment in time when we realize how close two nations can be when the respect for our fallen and the sadness that follows is felt by all those who realize how fragile life is and that together, we find our strength to carry on.
Sean and Lucy Cooper are now a permanent part of our history, and we were blessed with your time among us. We wish we could have had more. May God Bless.