Marine From East Tennessee Killed In Iraq

Oak Ridge, Anderson County (WVLT) - A roadside bomb has taken the life of another East Tennessee marine fighting in Iraq.

Lance Corporal William Craig Koprince, Junior, known as "Billy" Koprince, was killed by an improvised explosive device in the Al Anbar region, while on foot patrol. The 24-year-old graduated from Lenoir City High School in 2001.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe visited with the Koprince family and is in the newsroom with a message from the marine's parents.

Lance Corporal Billy Koprince, Junior's mother and dad want East Tennesseans to value our American way of life. The Koprinces say their Marine Corps son paid the ultimate price for our country. Their message is, freedom isn't free.

"Oh, I'm surviving. It's going to get worse though," mother Bernice Koprince said.

Friends and family have come by and phoned this Rarity Ridge home in Oak Ridge to empathize with Bernice and Bill Koprince, Senior and their daughter and son-in-law. The family lost Billy Koprince, Junior during combat operations 300 miles northwest of Baghdad, just 2 days after Christmas.

"I wish that I would just wake up and all this would be a horrible dream, right? Yep," Bernice said. "When they called us today, that's all I just kept pleading with God, saying please just let him come home warm."

Koprince was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq with the 3rd Marine Battalion's 2nd Division, First Platoon. Volunteer TV News Cameras caught the military homecoming at McGhee Tyson Airport back in September 2005 when Koprince returned from his first tour in Iraq.

"He actually said in an email that the locals enjoyed having the Americans around because they felt safe," Bill Koprince said.

Koprince served 3-and-a-half years of his 4-year enlistment and was scheduled to leave Iraq in 5 weeks.

"We want everybody to know that our son died for your freedom, for our freedom, and we shouldn't take that lightly," Bernice said.

Koprince senior and his only son enjoyed hiking in the Smokies, golfing and following professional ice hockey. Bernice says her son will be buried next to her father, a military veteran who brought home a wartime souvenir from a World War II battle in France.

"We have really good memories of Billy, and that's what we're going to hang on to, we're going to cling to those," Bernice said.

Lance Corporal Billy Koprince, Junior planned to go back to college once his hitch was up. The family last heard from him in a Christmas Eve email.

The Koprince family will now prepare to bring their Marine Corps son's body home from the East Coast once it arrives from Iraq. In the meantime, they're asking for our prayers of strength, courage and wisdom