Semper Fi, Mac http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/200805200100/NEWS/805200368 He gave his dad a hero and his country his life. On Sunday, Marine Cpl. Justin Cooper of Eupora was killed in combat in Afghanistan. Cooper's father, Alan Cooper, said he was told by Marine officials who visited his home Sunday night that the 22-year-old died after he was shot in the chest, just above his body armor, during a fire fight. "I never knew so many people could break down and cry over the phone when you tell them something like that," Alan Cooper said as he tried not to sob. "He had more friends than anyone I know. He was daddy's hero; now he's everyone's hero." Being a Marine was something Cooper had always dreamed about, his father said. After he graduated from Eupora High School in 2004, Justin Cooper attended Holmes Community College for one semester before enlisting in the Marines. It was Christmas Eve when he told his father he was going to be a Marine. "I remember telling him he needed to have a lot of thought before doing this. He felt his country needed him at the time more than he needed school," Alan Cooper said. He served two tours in Iraq, rising quickly through the ranks. Alan Cooper said he was told his son was one of the best scout snipers the Marines had seen in decades. Heather Burchfield, 23, went to high school with Justin Cooper and said he was one of the best friends a person could have. "Coop was that fun-loving, crazy guy everyone liked. He's the one you always wanted on your side because he is always going to take up for you," she said. "Even in high school, he had a soldier's heart. He was a very loyal friend." Lee Baker, 22, of Eupora said he and Justin Cooper were by each other's sides through almost every experience growing up. Both were born the same day and were like brothers, he said. "Our whole town is hurting for the loss of Justin. He's going to be severely missed and always remembered," Baker said. Funeral arrangements are expected to be made later this week. His family has not been told when his body will arrive from overseas. Family members and friends are planning a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Sunday at White Creek Lake in Eupora. Cooper is one of more than 60 military members with strong ties to Mississippi killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since those conflicts began. Earlier this month 22-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Casey Casanova of McComb was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. To comment on this story, call Nicklaus Lovelady at (601) 961-7239.