CROSS, AR, USA
LCPL, C CO, 1ST BN, 3D MAR, 31ST MEU, 1ST MAR DIV, KANEOHE BAY, HI
KOREAN VILLAGE, IRAQ 01/26/2005
An Arkansas Marine killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq was due to leave the country soon, his family said Friday.
Lance Corporal Brian C. Hopper, 21, of Wynne, was among 31 Marines killed in the crash of a CH-53E military helicopter in western Iraq on Wednesday. Hopper’s brother, Lance Corporal Patrick Hopper, is also serving in Iraq and will fly into Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, according to their father, Robert Hopper. Patrick Hopper is currently in Kuwait, the elder Hopper said.
The father had said Friday morning he wasn’t aware of the whereabouts of Patrick Hopper, who was supposed to escort his brother’s body to an air base at Dover, Del. Brian Hopper’s casket arrived at that base Friday morning, and his brother made a special request to accompany it. Both brothers had been in Iraq since last summer and were expected to come home in the coming weeks.
“Brian was due back next week,” Robert Hopper said. “Patrick is due back February 19th.”
Donald Hopper, a cousin of the younger Hoppers, said Brian Hopper’s presence on the mission that ended in disaster was surprising.
“We were under the impression that he was going to be out of Iraq,” he said. “We thought this was supposed to be his last week. We thought he was on a bus going to Kuwait.”
Donald Hopper said Brian Hopper had been wounded twice in Iraq before the crash.
Most of those aboard the aircraft, a CH-53E helicopter, were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the Pentagon said.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said the helicopter was on a routine mission in support of Sunday’s elections in Iraq. Abizaid, in Washington to brief members of Congress on the war effort, said the cause of the crash was still under investigation, but there was severe weather in the area at the time.
For Hopper’s family, the news has been difficult.
“When the Marines pulled into the yard, (Robert) knew, but he didn’t know which (son was killed),” Donald Hopper said.
Brian Hopper was remembered by his family as a person who rose above the call of duty.
“To me he was a hero, because he wouldn’t leave his men,” Donald Hopper said. “He was my hunting and fishing buddy.”
Wynne Mayor Paul Nichols taught Patrick Hopper in school and said he got to know his brother as a result. He said the town was troubled by Brian Hopper’s death.
“He was a fine young man,” Nichols said. “There is a lot of concern. People I have come into contact with have expressed sorrow.”