Hopson’s service earns praise
Almost exactly a year ago, U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Kurt Hopson regained consciousness on the floor of a Bradley fighting vehicle.
He had been trying to direct his convoy, based in Balad, Iraq, away from explosions when a blast from a 500-pound explosive knocked him out.
Although his tank helmet had deflected the brunt of the blast, Hopson suffered shrapnel wounds around the eye.
His injury garnered him a Purple Heart, and, when he returned to Kansas last week, a different award.
Residents at the Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community in Lawrence, organized by Eudora resident Tami Klinedinst, were the host of a party in Hopson's honor. Klinedinst is the activities director at the facility.
At the party, Klinedinst read him a poem and presented him with a medal, certificate and basket of candy.
The party gave Hopson a chance to meet veterans from other wars and talk about his time in Iraq.
"Iraq is, of course, a different place than America," Hopson said. "When you first get there, you just learn the area and your mission."
Hopson said most of his time in Iraq focused on routine.
"In Iraq you almost have to focus on keeping your soldiers focused because it is so routine," Hopson said. "But when it's exciting, it's really exciting."
During the party, Hopson met the people who sent care packages to him and other troops stationed in the Gulf.
"Everywhere I look people are supporting the troops," Hopson said. "This is a perfect example of that."
The party also gave his family -- mother, Delores, wife, Patricia, and two children, Dylan, 8, and Morgan, 6, a chance to see Kurt receive glory.
"I'm glad people are supportive of the military," Delores said.
At the party, Delores remembered when she first heard of Kurt's injury.
"As soon as we heard his voice on the phone we knew he would be OK," Delores said.
Having a family member abroad wasn't easy for Delores. Her nephew was also in Iraq, and she said she shared the burden of worry with her sister.
"She and I can cry at the drop of a hat, and when the kids come back all it takes is a patriotic song," Delores said. "Even when the kids are safe and back at home, it brings back all the memories."
Delores also focused on religion.
"You pray when they're over there, and you pray when they come home," Delores said. "I just start my prayers off by saying 'Hello God, it's me again,'" Delores said.
She said she enjoyed Kurt's brief return home.
"It's good to have him home, but of course the time goes by too quickly," Delores said.
Kurt's party was also special for Klinedinst, who said she had been anxious to meet him since she sent packages and read about his injury a year ago.
The reason for the party also wasn't lost on the residents of Pioneer Ridge.
As Hopson was meeting and greeting the residents he stopped to talk with Robbie Lana.
"I thought it was very good. Words cannot express how we appreciate the soldiers," Lana said.
Lana and the residents, led by Klinedinst, crafted care packages for the soldiers.
"I don't know how many boxes we sent, but it's a lot," Lana said. "It's such a little thing, but I want to let them know I appreciate their work."
Kurt said the medal he received at the party was very special to him.
He also said things could be much worse over in Iraq.
"To keep America free, I think loss of life is never acceptable," Hopson said. "But that number is considerably lower even going into the ground war."
Hopson left Eudora Saturday to continue his call of duty. He's currently in Army Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga.