Local soldier injured in Iraq
Rick and Delores Hopson received a phone call Monday morning that no parent wants to get when their son is serving in the armed forces. Their son, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Kurt Hopson, was injured earlier that day in Iraq. His unit is based in Balad.
Hopson's mother said she and her husband got a call at about 5:30 a.m. from Kurt's wife, Patricia, in Schweinfurt, Germany. Hopson's 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One, is based in Schweinfurt. Patricia lives on the base with the couple's son and daughter, Dylan, 6, and Morgan, 4.
Hopson's father said Patricia informed them that Kurt had been hit in the head with shrapnel earlier in the day. She said he called her personally to inform her of the injury.
Rick said the couple usually heard from their son one or two times a week, but it depended on when their son could get to a phone.
He said when someone died it was usually a day or two before anyone could use the phone.
Kurt's dad said his son's unit lost a soldier recently. The soldier, from North Dakota, and Hopson were out on patrol a few nights before Hopson's fellow soldier was killed.
"If there is a casualty in their unit, they shut the phones down until official notification is made," he said. "They have a procedure to follow."
Delores said that's what they were afraid happened this time as well.
"I just kept thinking to myself, 'I sure hope he calls, I sure hope he calls,'" Rick said. "I just knew he had a head wound and that was it."
The Hopsons got the call from their son about four hours later.
"We were relieved to get that phone call," his mother said. "That's a long four hours."
"I know after I heard his voice, I felt a whole lot better," his dad said.
Kurt's father said his son was on a mission at about 2:30 or 3:30 a.m. Balad time. The time in Iraq is nine hours ahead of Central Standard Time.
Hopson told his parents that six people were injured from a bomb explosion while his unit was traveling in a convoy Monday outside of Balad, but only Kurt and a lieutenant, who reported to duty in Iraq on Sunday, were taken to the hospital. The lieutenant's injuries required surgery.
Hopson told his father that a roadside bomb went off and hit a Humvee in front of their vehicle. The lieutenant and four others were riding in the Humvee. Hopson, a Bradley fighting unit commander, was in one of two Bradleys in the convoy. A Bradley is a small armored vehicle similar to a tank.
When the explosion occurred, Hopson told his parents, he stuck his head out of the top of the armored vehicle and told the soldiers following behind in the convoy to keep moving. At that moment, his vehicle hit a 500-pound bomb, which exploded on impact.
He told his father he saw a flash and sparkler-type lights, and the next thing he knew, he was returning to consciousness on the floor at the bottom of the Bradley.
He was taken to a nearby field hospital and then on to a regular hospital. The soldier was sent back to his unit after treatment for shrapnel wounds to the area around his eye. The other two passengers in Hopson's Bradley, a gunner and the driver, were not injured.
Hopson's father said Kurt had a tanker helmet on, which deflected the shrapnel and helped to lessen his son's injuries.
Hopson told his mother his face was swollen from the hit but that he would probably be off duty Monday and Tuesday before having to report for duty again.
"I'm proud of him for what he's doing," his father said. "They were under fire when he got hit. It took a lot of guts to do what he did to keep the convoy going.
"When he can keep his wits about him when he's under fire and continue to do his job -- that's the sign of a good soldier."
His mother said she hoped people would realize what the soldiers and their families were going through as the war in Iraq continued.
"We all get caught up in our own little world, and you don't think about what these families go through," Delores said.
Hopson graduated from Eudora High School in 1989 and joined the Army in 1992. His parents said their son's process of returning home could start as early as January 2005 and he could re-join his family in Germany by February.
"I just want the (war) to get over with and all these kids to come home," his father said.