Remembering LCpl Brian C. Hopper.
My name is Rob Hopper and I have been wearing one of your bracelets for over two years now in honor of my son, U.S. Marine Lcpl Brian C. Hopper, KIA 01/26/05. I would like to share some of his life with you.
Brian had complete knee reconstruction while he was in high school. He went to two different Marine recruiters in Arkansas and he would tell them about his knee and they would tell him that he couldn't join the marines due to his knee surgery. Brian crossed the Mississippi River and went to Oxford, MS and talked to another recruiter and didn't mention his knee and was accepted into the United States Marine Corp. I work away from home for two weeks at a time and didn't know that Brian was even considering joining the Marine Corp. and one summer day, I returned home from work and checked my mail and there it was, a green card informing me that my son had arrived safely at Parris Island, S.C. I was proud and scared but it didn't bother me because I didn't believe that Brian could go through Marine Corp. boot camp. Boy did he prove me wrong. Brian has had asthma all his life and was very skinny. When I first saw him at Parris Island he didn't even resemble the Brian that I had known. He stood straight and proud. He had put on quite a bit of weight and was completely a different person. After the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony, I walked up to my son and he gave me a hug that I'll never forget. It was strong and deliberate. The Marine Corp. had changed my youngest son mentally and physically. My oldest son, Patrick, also attended Brian's boot camp graduation and immediately after returning home, he joined the Marine Corp. His little brother had outdone him. In the same year, I attended both of my sons' graduation from Marine Corp. boot camp. One in Parris Island, SC and the other in San Diego, CA.
Brian went to Camp Jejune for his Grunt training and soon was stationed in Hawaii. He traveled to Japan and Australia during his first sea deployment. Brian called me from Hawaii and told me from Hawaii and said that he had leave coming up but that he wasn't going to come home. He said that he wanted to see Hawaii as a tourist and that made me laugh. I told him that's great and enjoy yourself. Come to find out he was dating the Colonel's daughter and was having the time of his life. (Way to go, Son).
In the summer of 2004, Brian called me and said that he was headed to the big sand-box and I knew what he was talking about. As I found out later, he volunteered so many times to go to Iraq that they finally moved him to a different unit so he could go. Not long after that, my other son called me and told me he was going to Iraq also. I told him that Brian was probably already there. Patrick made it to Iraq before Brian because Brian went on a ship and Patrick flew. I talked to my sons pretty often while they were in Iraq and email also helped kept up in touch. I never worried about them because they would tell me that they weren't doing anything and they were just good ole' country boys and they would be fine. On Christmas Eve of 2004, Brian was hit with a grenade and shrapnel hit him pretty good. He was taken to Camp Fallujah where Patrick was and I talked to both of them that night on the phone. Brian said that he wasn't hurt that bad but I could tell by Patrick's voice that it was pretty bad. The shrapnel had gone through the same knee that he had repaired in high school. It also hit his arm and face. I begged him to milk this injury out till his time was up. The Marine Corp. was going to send him to Germany for surgery then to the states but somehow, he talked them into letting him stay in Iraq and get stronger so he could get back to his guys. I never knew about this till later. With one week left in Iraq, Brian called me and said that they were moving out of Fallujah. I was so glad to hear this and I knew that he would be coming home soon. He told me that he had to go and get on a bus and I told him that I loved him and he said that he loved me. That was the last time that I talked to him because the helicopter that he was on crashed along with 30 other Marines. They were on their way to guard the Syrian border for the first free elections held in Iraq.
I had gone to pick up Brian and Patrick's sister from school and when we arrived at home and there they were. Two U.S. Marines in dress blues and I immediately knew what it was but I just didn't know which one. I was so mad at the Marines for letting him stay in Iraq after he had been injured but now I am so proud of him for becoming such a good friend with so many that he wanted to just get better so he could get back with his unit. Patrick called me from Iraq two days later and his first words were "was it true?". How horrible it was to tell him yes. Patrick came home and put in a special request to escort his brother home from Dover. I couldn't understand how he could be that strong to do this and he said that Brian would have done that for him.
About a month had passed when a Marine came to my house and handed me some papers that had been prepared for a medal to be given to Brian. I would like to share a short bit with you:
WHILE SERVING AS RIFLEMAN, 1ST SQUAD, 3D PLATOON, COMPANY C, 1ST BATTALION, 3RD MARINES, 31ST MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT, 1ST MARINE DIVISION, IN SUPPORT OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 11. LANCE CORPORAL HOPPER'S BRAVERY, LEADERSHIP AND TACTICAL ABILITIES CONTRIBUTED SUBSTANTIALLY TO UNIT SUCCESS DURING THE ATTACK ON THE CITY OF AL FALLUJAH. DESIGNATED AS POINTMAN FOR THE LEAD FIRE TEAM OF TEH ENTIRE BATTALION LANDING TEAM, LANCED CORPORAL HOPPER WAS THE FIRST MARINE THROUGH AN UNMARKED AND UN-PROOFED BREACH LANE WITH COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR HIS OWN SAFETY, HE REPEATEDLY MANEUVERED THROUGH ENEMY SMALL ARMS, MACHINE GUN AND ROCKET PROPELLED GRENADE FIRE AS HE LEAD THE WAY FOR THE REST OF THE BATTALION INTO THE HEART OF FALLUJAH. LANCE CORPORAL HOPPER FOUGHT VALIANTLY TO ENSURE MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR THE COMPANY DURING INTENSE COMPAT OPERATIONS. HE REPEATEDLY DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF THROUGH HEROIC ACTIONS WHILE CLEARING BUILDINGS KNOWN TO CONTAIN INSURGENT FORCES. ON 26 JANUARY, LANCE CORPORAL HOPPER GAVE THE FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION TO HISCOUNTRY AND CORPS WHEN HE WAS KILLED IN A HELICOPTED CRASH DURING A COMBAT MISSION IN SUPPORT OF THE INAUGURAL IRAQI NATIONAL ELECTIONS. LANCE CORPORAL HOPPER'S INTIATIVE, PERSEVERANCE AND TOTAL DEDICATION TO DUTY REFLECTED CREDIT UPON HIM AND WERE IN KEEPING WITH THE HIGHEST TRADITIONS OF THE MARINE CORPS AND THE UNITED STATES NAVEL SERVICE.
After reading this I understood that my son was a brave and strong Marine and pride took away some of the pain. I now understand why he would tell that he wasn't doing anything over there. He did it for me. I love and miss you son!
Proud father of two U. S. Marines that fought side-by-side in Fallujah, Iraq!
I have attached three pictures of Brian, first one is Brian in his dress blues, second is Brian and his brother, Patrick, as young boys cutting thier own hair, thier first high-and tight, and third picture is of Brian in Iraq. This picture was taken by his brother, Patrick.
I really appreciate what you are doing with the braclets and your web-site. THANK YOU!