TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Memorial Day had extra special meaning this year for former Washburn football star JJ Brania-Hopp.
JJ’s stepfather, Robert Hopp, helped raise JJ from the time he was two years old. Hopp was a navy seal and served two and half tours in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, Hopp was shot in the stomach while in a helicopter. Every person in the helicopter, including the pilot was killed, except for Hopp. Hopp then piloted the helicopter to safety and earned a Purple Heart.
Hopp was dealing with health issues that stemmed from diabetes, which landed him at Paramus Veterans Home in New Jersey. He died there last month at age 70 and his death was ruled coronavirus related. Brania-Hopp and his mother were not able to be with him because of the pandemic. Paramus Veterans Home is considered a hot spot for coronavirus with over 70 COVID-19 related deaths.
Brania-Hopp received a major surprise on Memorial Day when former President Barack Obama sent out a tweet honoring his father and other veterans who lost their lives during the pandemic.
“I think that it was just amazing that he was able to get recognized for it because I really believe that the older generation of soldiers and military aren’t fully getting the recognition and the care that they deserve sometimes,” said Brania-Hopp, who was shocked to discover the tweet from Obama.
Robert Hopp was extremely proud of his military service.
“He always had his veterans gear on him, he had a hat on, he liked to tell people that he’s a navy seal. If he saw someone else with the hat on that was a veteran he always saluted them and just had a conversation with them about everything,” said Brania-Hopp.