Joe Copack was born on June 4, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve on December 15, 1969, to attend Officer Training School (OTS). He entered OTS on April 3, 1970, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 30, 1970. Lt Copack next completed Undergraduate Navigator Training and was awarded his navigator wings at Mather AFB, California, in May 1971, followed by Navigator-Bombardier Training and B-52 Stratofortress Combat Crew Training from May 1971 to April 1972. He served as a B-52 navigator with the 2nd Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group at March AFB, California, from April 1972 until he was killed in action while on temporary duty to Southeast Asia on December 22, 1972. Lt Copack was officially listed as Missing in Action and was promoted to Captain before being declared dead on August 16, 1978. His remains were returned to the United States on December 15, 1988, and he was buried at the Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
His Distinguished Flying Cross w/Valor Citation reads:
1st Lieutenant Joseph B. Copack, Jr. distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as a B-52 Navigator over Southeast Asia on 22 December 1972. On that date, Lieutenant Copack participated in high-priority bombing missions against vital military targets in heavily-defended areas of North Vietnam. Despite the extreme hazards of multiple surface-to-air missiles and hostile interceptors, Lieutenant Copack displayed extraordinary courage and a remarkable ability to perform under severe stress as he placed the mission requirements above his personal safety in order to successfully release his ordnance on the designated targets. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Copack reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.