Fallen Marine to be honored at McGhee Tyson hangar

By Lance Coleman knoxnews.com

William C. Koprinc, Jr.
A large flag will be raised in memory of a fallen area U.S. Marine at a hangar on McGhee Tyson Airport property this month.

The flag will be dedicated May 24 in memory of Lance Cpl. William Koprince Jr., at the Express Jet hangar where his father William Koprince Sr. works as a mechanic.

Koprince Jr., of Lenoir City, died Dec. 27, 2006, in the Lambar province of Iraq west of Baghdad after an improvised explosive device exploded behind him. The 26-year-old was on his second tour in Iraq when he died.

Attendance at the ceremony is by invitation only.

Koprince said state and U.S. flags hung in the hangar for 10 years, and when employees took them down in November to clean them, both of the 20-foot-by-30-foot flags were in sad shape.

"When we took the U.S. flag down it looked bad, and the state flag looked worse. It fell apart in our hands," he said.

Koprince said about $400 in donations were collected from among 200 employees at the facility. Then, a friend of his family contacted Woodmen of the World, an insurance company known for donating U.S. flags.

"She surprised me when the local Knox County Woodmen of the World decided to pick up the rest of the cost of the American flag in memory of my son," he said.

Koprince said the employees at the hangar used the funds they raised to buy a smaller state flag, as well as flags for each branch of the military and a MIA/POW flag.

Koprince said that when he learned the Metropolitan Airport Authority was also bringing a delegation to honor his son, he appreciated the gesture.

He credited the airport authority for bringing Continental Airlines, the pre-cursor to Express Jet, to McGhee Tyson Airport. More than 100 people are expected at the ceremony, he said.

"I'm at a loss for words. They gave us jobs and I wouldn't be in Knoxville without them. I can't believe this many people would be willing or want to honor my son. I'm just humbled," he said.