After 20 years, Penn. man will get to spend Christmas with military son
Posted on: Monday, December 24, 2007

By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – As five white busses pulled to curbs along Cooper Field, Michael Zanuck, of Pennsylvania, pulled off his sunglasses and wiped the building tears from his aged face with a shaking sleeve.

His son, Chief Warrant Officer Richard Kopitskie, arrived home on Sunday after 15 months in Iraq with about 400 other soldiers from Division Headquarters.

Zanuck's wife, Elaine, and Kopitskie's immediately family waited next to Zanuck in the cluttered bleachers , the 1st Cavalry Division's parade field, at the 1st Cavalry homecoming ceremony.

"Daddy is on one of them," Elaine said pointing to the busses as her 5-year-old granddaughter climbed onto the brick ledge of the bleachers to peer over the heads of returning soldiers' family members.

Kopitskie's wife, Hana, of Killeen, held her 3-year-old son, Jun, as they watched the soldiers lineup in formation after exiting the busses.

The Zanucks were glad to have their son back in the United States, but this time was special for them. This homecoming, Kopitskie's third homecoming, marked the first time in 20 years that the Zanucks could spend Christmas with their son. Kopitskie has served 25 years in the U.S. military, 12 years in the Marines and 13 years in the Army. Zanuck also severed in both the Marines then the Army.

"I am like a kid in candy shop," Elaine said, as she waited for the buses to arrive. "We were determined to see him this time."

During the 15 months, Kopitskie said he called his parents to assure them that he was safe.

"He never tells us what he does," Zanuck said. "He says he is OK. He is safe. He was awarded two Bronze Stars. You don't get those for being safe," Zanuck proudly added.

Zanuck, who has lost a leg and hearing to diabetes, was more than happy to make the trip from Pennsylvania to Killeen.

"To see him today just makes my day," Zanuck said. "It just makes my year."

As the buses pulled away from the curb, the crowd cheered.

"We can't miss our son. He is 6-foot-5," Zanuck said as the soldiers marched across Cooper Field.

Other families, such as Carolyn Jenkins, of Lummi Island, Wash., were also excited to see their soldiers.

"Cinnamon was a Christmas baby, so it's like having her all over again," Jenkins said, before the buses arrived. When Capt. Cinnamon Jenkins met her mother on the field, they hugged with broad smiles on their faces.

"I am a lucky girl because she came all the way here," Cinnamon said, after they posed for some pictures. "I am thrilled that she is here."

As the crowd of family members and the returning soldiers folded into each other, Zanuck staggered into it looking for his son.

Kopitskie emerged from mass of people and greeted his dad with his daughter in hand.

"Let's get out of here," Kopitskie said.

Contact Mason W. Canales at or call (254) 501-7554