KENNESAW, GEORGIA — Kennesaw State University’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education recently opened two, newly designed Local Hero displays, featuring two U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers.
The featured combat photographers, who were both honored with a separate showcase, were Sgt. 1st Class Amber Stephens and Sgt. 1st Class Rachel Copeland. Both noncommissioned officers were featured for their deployment experiences with the then 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne).
Currently, Stephens is the interim first sergeant at the 982nd Signal Company (Airborne) out of East Point and Copeland is the executive administrative assistant with the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) headquartered out of Fort Benning.
The rotating displays of artifacts, images and documents focus on the first-hand experiences of the veterans.
MHHE intern and long-time photojournalist, David Rust, chose to highlight these Soldiers’ “important and often dangerous work of documenting U.S. military activity around the world, underscoring the heroism of these women veterans,” according to the museum website.
Copeland spoke at the February 3, 2022 Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the museum, saying she was moved by the acknowledgement. (Stephens attended the ceremony virtually.)
“I am very humbled that my 23-year-career as combat camera was chosen to be spotlighted, to highlight what the 982nd Combat Camera Company does down range,” said Copeland, who is a Purple Heart recipient for injuries sustained on her second deployment to Iraq in 2006-2007.
As deployed combat camera Soldiers, both Copeland and Stephens documented various events and missions. This fact left the Army Reserve Soldiers in the middle of some intense situations, but that was just part of the job, explained Copeland.
“We are the eyes on the battlefield, but that doesn’t take us away from being part of the stories on the battlefield,” said Copeland after explaining how her convoy had hit an improvised explosive device.
Since then, the IED survivor says she has taken every opportunity to give back because she was spared that day. And the fact that the museum decided to honor her and Stephens’ work, is very touching.
“It brings a tear to my eye because I am still here, and that someone else cared enough to tell my story,” said Copeland.
Through working with Copeland, the 98th Training Division Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Kaim, has come to learn about her past experiences, and found her to be a constant professional. So though he was not surprised to see her honored by others, Kaim said it was a humbling experience to witness this great Soldier’s recognition.
“I think you run across people in your career who definitely know what right looks like, and Sergeant [1st Class] Copeland is one of those Soldiers. She’s very caring, very humble. Always professional and articulate. And I just could not be more happy to serve with her.”
To see Copeland’s speech at the ceremony go to https://youtu.be/H-uPZjAQXak. To learn more about this Soldier, read her feature story at https://www.army.mil/article/238085/reserve_soldier_finds_purpose_gives_back.