KHQA's "Hometown Hero" feeding thousands after protecting the lives of millions

"I think you picked out the wrong person,” Hopping cracked Thursday with KHQA's David Amelotti. “There's a lot of people out there that do a lot more than I do." (PHOTO COURTESY: David Amelotti)

A hero to some is a person who does the right thing even when no one is looking. A person with integrity, someone we all look up to who makes a difference in our lives.

That description was submitted by retired U.S. Airman and farmer, Lawson Barclay.

He nominated his friend, John Hopping, for KHQA's first "Hometown Heroes" award.

There's probably not a time that there's been some community service or someone needs help and particularly if he's asked or aware of that he hasn't helped," Barclay said of his friend Thursday.

Quiet, selfless, always there offering a helping hand: Lawson Barclay's smile and words are proof he's proud of his friend John Hopping.

John's passion for service began in 1965 when he was drafted into the US Army.

On November 19th, 1966, he was wounded in the jungles of Vietnam.

A bullet to the jaw fired by an enemy sniper. Hopping laughed after explaining what happened. He said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The snipers were looking for radio operators," Hopping explained. "They knew a lieutenant or officer was behind or in front of you and that's what they were looking for.

John received the Purple Heart for his heroics. Two years later he completed his tour in Vietnam and then honorably discharged.

Hopping would return to Macomb to work on the Barclay family farm. Over the years, he'd care for hogs, sheep, and cattle. In recent years he's grown corn and beans.

He'd trade in his rifle for farm equipment but never giving up his passion to serve his nation or fellow soldiers.

After retiring in the early 1980's, John continued to work extensively with the local VA office.

His current mission is to honor WWI and WWII vets who passed before 1991 who have yet to get recognition on their grave sites.

A military marker, that's all. Them guys defended our country gosh darned, they should be recognized.

He's active with the local honor flight and transports older veterans cross country for medical needs.

Hopping volunteers for the VFW's Flags of Love placed in Chandler Park for special holidays, including most recently Memorial Day.

Everybody likes to see them up but never wants to go through the trouble of taking them down, John is always there," Barclay interjected.

Between John's service in the military and later working with the VA, he says his most memorable moment of giving back is bringing farm animals into the classroom for children.

Every animal I took to school, each student got a cut out of it. I did that for 14 years and I enjoyed that," Hopping said smiling.

Memories like this trigger smiles and laughter. After all, Lawson shared that John was the face of agriculture in Macomb for decades, bringing agriculture into the classroom before the Farm Bureau.

As for receiving KHQA's Hometown Heroes award, John said he's no one special, just a person doing what needs to be done.

I think you picked out the wrong person," Hopping cracked. "There's a lot of people out there that do a lot more than I do.

In the meantime, Hopping is semi-retired, working on the family farm with his friend Lawson, always ready and willing to help.

Both Hopping and Barclay thank sponsors Hilbing Autobody and Peters Heating and Air Conditioning for making KHQA's 'Hometown Heroes' series possible.

If you know someone who is a Hometown Hero, click here to submit your nomination.

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