Born and raised on the Mississippi River in Keokuk, Iowa, Harold Cooper was drafted as an infantryman into the Army in 1968.
He completed his basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas, then his advanced individual training (AIT) right here at Tigerland, Fort Polk.
He was sent to work as a radio operator and a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam with 1st Corps, the Americal Division.
During his 14 months in Vietnam, he participated in five military campaigns, two of which involved preventing the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) from taking over his base in early 1969.
He returned home in August of 1969 and exited the Army.
For the next three years, he tried to work various jobs before re-enlisting in the Army in 1972.
His first duty station after his re-enlistment was a 1st CAV division at Fort Hood, Texas. While he was assigned to 1st CAV, Cooper was selected to be in the Honor Guard for the funeral of Lyndon B. Johnson.
He followed regulations so closely that one little girl attending the funeral thought he was a statue because he didn’t blink his eyes.
He was then sent to Germany with 3rd Armored Division for two years.
Eventually, he received orders to report to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he was a Drill Instructor for three years.
While at Fort Knox Cooper was awarded the Outstanding Drill Instructor award six times and the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).
The MSM is awarded to a member of the military who sets him or herself apart from his/her comrades by outstanding non-combat meritorious achievement or service to the United States after January 16, 1969.
Following his assignment at Fort Knox Cooper was then sent back to Germany and he was present at the time President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie before the Berlin Wall came down.
His final duty station was right here again at Fort Polk. He was assigned to the 5th INF DIV where he was Senior Instructor of the NCO Academy before he became the NCOIC in charge of training.
His final assignment before retiring in 1991 was as the staff NCO in the G3 division of plans and exercises.
Cooper retired as an SFC after serving 20 years in the Army. He then went into the retail field and retired again after working 14 years at the DeRidder Wal-Mart.