A Mississippi Army National Guard soldier killed over the weekend by an improvised explosive device had always dreamed of serving his country and was recently presented the Army Achievement Award, his family said Sunday.
Sgt. Travis S. Cooper, 24, of Macon died Saturday from injuries he sustained the day before, according to Lt. Col. Tim Powell, a Guard spokesman.
"The world lost a very amazing young man,'' said Cooper's aunt, Levon Cooper of Dekalb. "Travis was the ambitious type, always trying to do more than the average man.''
Cooper, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment headquartered in Starkville, was injured by a bomb that exploded near a vehicle he was searching. His brother, 22-year-old Antwan Cooper, said the soldier was a dedicated man who loved the military lifestyle.
"I'm very proud of my brother for sacrificing his life for our country and our freedom,'' he said. "He was an ambitious person. He was the type person that wanted to make something of his life and he saw the military as a way to do that.''
Antwan Cooper said his brother was once rejected by the Guard because of a tattoo on his neck. He said his bother worked at a grocery store to save $2,500 to have the tattoo removed.
"Then he left school a year early and took his GED and joined the Guard,'' Antwan Cooper said. "All he ever talked about was serving his country.''
Antwan Cooper said his brother received the Army Achievement Award on April 8 for "extreme dedication of duty and professionalism'' in over 50 missions as a rifleman and forward observer.
"He died as a hero and was doing something he loved to do,'' Antwan Cooper said.
Cooper was part of the 155th Brigade Combat Team, which is made up of nearly 3,500 Mississippi Guard soldiers and others from throughout the country. The unit trained at Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg and deployed to Iraq in January.
Antwan Cooper said his brother attended Noxubee High School in Macon and was happiest playing spades with his family and spending time with his fiance. He said members of his brother's unit have contacted the family and "are taking it hard.''
"If you have a whole unit of people that work with you everyday and they take it hard like that, it shows you what kind of person he was,'' he said.
Cooper's death brings to 13 the number of soldiers in the unit who have died in Iraq.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the Cooper family and friends,'' said Gov. Haley Barbour. "Marsha and I honor this brave man's service, and we deeply regret this incident.''
"Another Mississippi soldier has paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms,'' said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the adjutant general of Mississippi. "Sgt. Cooper is a true hero, and we all mourn his loss along with the Cooper family.''