Friday, December 5, 2008

Hey everyone. It's Brad, and it's Friday, Dec 5. Today is my graduation day.

I'm sitting in a hotel room with my parents right now, relaxing for the first time in about 16 weeks. My civilian clothes don't fit -quite- as well as they used to, but they're really comfy compared to the Army ACU's.

It feels good to have some freedom finally. We all get about a month of leave, due to how graduation fell right before Christmas Exodus. So I'm going to go home, relax for a while, and get ready for the training to come.

As far as how basic was: It wasn't quite what I was expecting. Physically it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be - There were lots of times when we'd push ourselves past our limits, but eventually you just get used to it and get the job done. What got me through the really painful parts was the thought that "In an hour I'll be warm and dry, looking back and saying 'that wasn't so bad.'" Emotionally and mentally though, is what was the hardest. They cut you off almost completely from everyone and everything you knew in your civilian life, and it's impossible to explain how much it really hurts and gets to you unless you have been in that situation.

Then there are the mind games that they play. The Drill Sergeants will constantly make fun of everyone for everything, but the worst part is how they tell you how weak and pathetic you are. For me, I expected it for the first few weeks, but when they kept it up just as much and even more later on in the cycle when I felt I had improved, it... well, it sucked. But I guess it just made me push harder towards the goal.

What was probably the biggest 'turning point' in the training would have been the IV day... I've always been very squeamish around needles, and having to actually do one myself was a big challenge. But when I was able to tell myself "This is stupid, it's an illegitimate fear" and just do it, and get through, it felt great.

Anyway, I got a little longer-winded than I was planning. I'll just leave it at this: I'm back home for a while, and I hope to see a lot of you guys soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The man himself

Hey guys. It's Brad, I'm on a pass so I figured I'd check out this blog I apparently have!

Things are going well. We got done with our Field Training Exercise (The culmination of all the training), and now we're in our 2 recovery weeks. That means we'll be "cleaning until we die." We'll clean our equipment and the weapons issued to us, then we'll clean them again. And when we're done with that, we'll clean them again. Even through the night we're cleaning, a quarter of my platoon is up at any given point at night cleaning.

Only 2 weeks to go though, and I get to go home! Dec. 6 at 9:00 or so PM I'll be home.

Mom and Dad: Since I didn't get my phone back yet, here's my general flight info (I don't get a copy of my itinerary, and I didn't really get much choice of a flight):

I leave on Dec. 6, at 12:40 from Atlanta. I make a stop for 3 or so hours in... Uh, PA I think. Then I'll come home, and get there around 9 PM or so. Then I have a return ticket to GA on the 5th of January, I can't remember times on that one though.

Anyway, got other stuff to do. I can't wait to see you all! 2 weeks!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 4

Mom & Dad:
Hey! We had another Bivowac last night, sans rain. It was nice & clear for the whole night. We had to pull 50% security again because our Drill Sergeant officially hates us now. But at least we were warm during our broken up 1 hour intervals of sleep.

So I'm officially a soldier now. These last 5 weeks will be as follows:

Week 1: Squad and team tactics, 10-mile ruck march. We already did the ruck march, and it almost killed us. I HATE rucking.

Week 2: FTX prep. We'll be learning more about what we'll do on FTX, and how to do it. We'll get all the supplies we need & do final preparations.

Week 3: FTX (Field Training Exercise). It will be 7 days of in-the-field training, sleepin under the stars every night. We will get missions, and have to execute them without Drill Sergeant guidance. It will include a river crossing and a 12-mile ruck march, which will...completely suck. That's all I'm worried about, the ruck march. After that's done - at the end of the ruck - is a giant party on top of what they call "Honor Hill." It might be the proudest (and smelliest, after a week in the field) moment of my life.

Week 4 & 5: These are recovery weeks. We won't be training these weeks, just doing PT and cleaning our gear. It'll probably be the longest 2 weeks, EVER.

I didn't get a chance to look up my local hotels. Sorry, but I didn't have much computer access! However, we just sent out a packet full of graduation info., which included local info-places of interest, activities, restaurants and all that. It should have some good info. By the way, when you call for that kind of stuff, see if you can get a military discount! They really save a LOT of money on stuff like that.

Well, it's lights out. Really hoping to hear from you soon. I'd love some pictures! Please, lots of pictures! I don't even care if they're old pictures, anything will do. Thanks!

Love you guys tons!

P.S. Talk to SSgt. Miller for me if you can, ask him what my home town recruiting will entail. Cuz I have it for sure, and I'd like to know what I'll be doing!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 27

Mom & Dad:
Hey! Glad to hear from you again. I was starting to get a little depressed, honestly, because I hadn't heard from you in a while. Nope, I didn't get my phone again that next week, but I should this Friday. This Friday is the end of week 9, which is the end of the "Basic" portion of Basic Training. Then we start 5 weeks of advanced training, then graduation! So on Friday we get a 36-hour pass to rest and have a break after the first 9 weeks. It's going by fast.
So this past week...Let's see if I can remember. Monday we had Land Navigation all day long, and through part of the night. We got lost at night, it wasn't very fun. Especially with the GIANT SPIDERS everywhere.
Tuesday and Wednesday we prepared for and did the Convoy Live Fire which according to the Drill Sergeants was completely useless, but for some reason the higher-ups make us do it still. All it did for me was send a hot 5.56mm casing down my neck and burn me pretty bad.
Thursday we did GFT, and learned more grappling and some chokes. Not very exciting. Friday we had intro to MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) and a new company started, and we got to see all the scared Day Zero privates running around. It was fun to see what we were like the first day we got there, and see how far we've progressed.
Saturday we did more MOUT, running around shooting blanks. It was fun.
Today, Sunday, we're going ot Church, getting haircuts, and hanging out at thePX for a while. Pretty normal Sunday. And I get time to write, finally.
How's Drew? Is his leg okay? I'm actually really glad to hear he's playing football again. He's still drumming, right?
On the financial situation: Don't worry about it too much. Nothing else should need to be paid before the 1st, and I will be paid on Nov. 1. I fixed the issues.
Well, that should be about it. This week will be easy, with more MOUT, then Basic graduation and 2 days or so of freedom. I'll call you asap when I get my phone!

I love you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 18

Mom & Dad:
Hey! I haven't heard from you guys in about 2 weeks :( Hopefully, I'll get a letter from you Monday. This week has been crazy. Monday we had GFT (Ground Fighting Techniques) which stunk, as usual. We aren't learning anything useful, and we cram 200+ people into a small room and then we get smoked if anyone talks. And they aren't the normal "Do Pushups" smokings, they make us do things like low crawl through the sand pit.
Tuesday we got to play with the M2 .50 cal machine gun, and the MK .19 Grenade launcher. They were both fun, but nothing really special.
Wednesday we did small team tactics, learned the basics of fighting formations and that stuff. Then Thursday we got to use the M249 & M240B machine guns which were pretty cool. We'll have some of each assigned to our platoon.
Yesterday we had something called the Battle March and Shoot. We had to do some first aid & radio tasks then carry a guy for 3 1/2 miles (all of us carrying about 50 pounds of gear). Also, did I mention this a race? So we ran the 3 1/2 miles. I'm hurting today. When we got to the end, we had to do a 25 meter shoot, 40 rounds, at a man-sized target. We were all stressed and as tired as we could be, so our shots were not as accurate as they could have been. Now, the other 3 platoons had been preparing and practicing for 2 weeks, and we had been told what we were doing the night before we did it. So we lost in a bad way, and so we got yelled at.
Today we're getting class A's, but I already have mine since I'm funeral detail, so I'm sitting in the bay writing letters.
I'm including a picture and a drawing...The drawing is an example of what we do when we're bored (don't ask, it's weird), and the picture...It's from 2 weeks ago, we had a guy leave for 2 weeks because of a stress fracture. Before he left he took some pictures & mailed them to us. So here's a picture for you.
Well, that's about it. Hope to hear from you soon. I love you guys. A month an a half!

PFC Brad Hopper

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October 10

Mom & Dad:
Hey! Sorry I haven't written in a while. It's been a crazy week. My Drill Seargeant (DS McDaniel, one of two) was the Duty DS this week, so everything had to be "Frickin' Doggone Flawless." That means our platoon (specifically 2nd squad, I'm 3rd but it was still busy for us) was responsible for setting up & tearing down all the training for the week.
We did a lot. Monday, we had the Electronic Skills Trainer (Simulated M16's shooting at a computer screen). The 18X's in the platoon had to do a physical though, so I sat in the doctor's office for most of the day. Tuesday, we had our first Bivowac. We stayed out all night "Camping" with no tent, nothing. Just a sleeping mat. We got in trouble for something stupid and had to pull 50% Security, which means 50% of the platoon had to be awake at all times...One hour sleep, followed by one hour guard all night long. And Then, to top it all off, it rained HARD ALL NIGHT. I was cold, wet, and miserable, it was easily the worst night of my life. We were supposed to stay for another night, but that was cancelled due to weather. All those 2 days we did lots of shooting: shooting with Night Vision, shooting with barricades, shooting while moving.
Then Thursday, we got to have fun with big guns. We all got to fire the M203 Grenade Launcher (simulated dummy rounds but it was cool) then the AT-4 rocket Anti-Tank launcher (That was COOL, but loud!) Today we qualified with a barricade shoot, and I shot one target away from expert qualified, which ticked me off some. Oh well.
So when I was on my 18X physical, they asked if I was in any pain at all. My left foot had been hurting, so I mentioned it. They took a quick look at it, then told me I had to come back within a couple of days for a more extensive check. They say I might have a broken bone in my foot. I don't know if it's because I"m thinking about it now or what, but it is hurting a lot more in the last couple days. I'm going in tomorrow morning to have them take a look, I'll be sure to keep you updated.
It's just about lights out time, so I'll wrap this up now. I love you guys lots, can't wait to hear from you again!

PFC Brad Hopper

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Letter to Grandma Inman September 28, 2008

Hey! I can't remember if I had written back yet or not. We don't have much time to write around here, so I just have to take time when I can. Yeah, we did IV's... a while ago now. It's been a few weeks now. It went a lot better than I thought it would. Since then we've done a lot more first aid, some land navigation, the gas chamber (which was terrible, I never want to do that again), and we started Basic Rifle Marksmanship. That's where we are now, through the end of this week. Next week is familiarization with other weapon systems, then I don't know what's after.

So you cleared the shop out? I'm looking forward to seeing it at Christmas time! I'm kinda sad that you sold the moose head though. That's been there as long as I can remember!

Ooh, you got the website up? It'll probably be a while before I get a chance, but I'm looking forward to checking it out! I'll definitely show my friends.

Well, I'm about out of time, so that's it for now. I'll write more when I get some time!
Love you,
Pfc Brad Hopper

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Letter from September 29

Mom & Dad:
Things have really been picking up here lately. We just started using our rifles this week, and had intro to pop-up targets today (kind of a pre-pre-qualification). I hit 29 out of 40 targets...I'm not very happy with that, but I have a week and a half to improve before qualification. If I get 40 of 40, I get a 4-6 hour pass, and my cell phone! So I'm gonna work hard.

Yeah, we did the gas chamber. I assume you've been reading up on Basic? Look up Infantry OSUT specifically for better info. I wrote about the gas chamber in another letter, but yeah, it wasn't fun.

The Chaplin came and talked to us today. I guess the pictures should be up soon. Look for a "129" on the fronts of helmets. That's me.

I'm glad to hear Dad's doing well! Is the plan for replacement still the same, or are there any changes? Is he still feeling good after these few days?

Thanks for letting Grandma Hopper know about the chocolates. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to those.

I actually got a letter from the Seventy as well (I had to do pushups for it)! It was generic stuff though, no real solid information, haha. I know who Bro Funk is! I see him every week!

Well, that's it for now. Time to sleep. Hope to hear from you soon!

I Love You,
-PFC Brad Hopper

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letter from September 25

Hey again. Just bored at 3:00 am doing CQ duty. We had Land Navigation yesterday, had to find a bunch of points using only a map and a compass. It was a lot of fun, they gave us 4 hours to do it and my group got it done in 3; we were the first ones back. Then we sat around waiting for dark to do a night land. It started to rain pretty hard...There was a Drill Sergeant saying things like "Suck it up, we're staying, just gonna have to do it in the rain!" Then the rain got harder by a lot, so they took us back and we didn't do it. Kinda disappointing but oh well. A lot of the teams got very lost in the day land nav. It probably would have been very bad at night in that weather.
What are gas prices like? The DS's were talking about it, but didn't give any dollar amounts, and you're my connection to the world right now. Tomorrow, we're throwing hand grenades. I can't wait, but it probably won't be as fun as I'm hoping.

Mmm, a good dinner and a milkshake sounds SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good right now. I've only eaten DFAC food for the past month, and I think I only spend about 2 minutes eating per meal.
The 36 hour pass is kind of up to the First Sergeant's discretion, and if my platoon screws up, we all lose the pass. We have plans though: A few friends and I are going to go to Taco Bell and stuff ourselves!! Then go to a hotel and play xbox for probably the whole night, then sleeeeeeeeep.
Well, lights just went out. I'll write more later.

You think YOUR days are brighter when you get mail? For me, it's what keeps me going! We have to do 15 pushups for every letter past 2, but it is completely worth it. I'd do twice that much.
Regarding Church, that's another thing keeping me going. Like I said, this whole Army experience has really boosted my faith. It helps me through a lot.
You're right. I'm sorer than I've ever been. It's weird though, my weight has not yet changed at all. I'm sure I'll get a lot lighter soon enough, though.
Glad to hear Drew's having fun! How long has he been there, a week or so?
It's hard to believe, I've been gone for a month now. Time has gone by fairly quickly, but I still can't wait to get home. My platoon is getting somewhat better, we have official leadership now. I'm not a squad leader any more. It was just temporary anyway. It's fine though. I don't think I really wanted to have that responsibility anyway.
I like the blogspot idea! I'm looking forward to seeing what people have to say.
Regarding packages: We are not allowed to have food, or "entertainment" - i.e. books, magazines, games, etc. Basically nothing on the contraband list. Vitamins are okay (send me Glucosamine!), general care items (moleskin, etc.) are fine. So packages are okay, but they need to be opened in front of a Drill Sergeant and he needs to okay it.

Hey, this'll be my last letter for this envelope. Just wanted to give you an update on what's going on since the last couple days. On Wednesday, we had our Biological/Chemical warfare classes...That means we went through the gas chamber. That was possibly the worst 2 minutes of my life. They took us in, with our gas masks on, then they made us lift up our masks, say our name and last 4. We put the masks on again, cleared them, and sat in there for a few minutes. Then, we had to take the mask off, put our helmets on, and lift our mask up in our left hand and our weapon in our right, at shoulder level. We couldn't leave until everyone had them at shoulder level. Just to give you an idea of what CS gas (A.K.A. Tear gas) feels like, stand in the smoke of a campfire and breathe deep for 30 seconds. Multiply that by 20, and then set all your exposed skin on fire. Then get a Drill Sergeant to punch you in the stomach and yell in your face "BREATHE!!!" That's about what it's like. It was...horrible. But I'm proud to say I did it.
The last couple of days have been Red Phase Testing. We did a bunch of written & practical tests on everything we learned in the past 3 weeks. We passed without trouble, but today we needed to pass an IG, or "Ispection General" on our barracks to officially pass into White Phase. We actually failed the first IG, so they gave us 1 hour to fix up, and we passed. So we're officially in White Phase now, which is awesome because now the DS's will lighten up, we'll have more spare time, and we actually get to start training on the fun stuff.
Well, that's it for now. Oh, wait! We started doing combatives today, too. Basically, practical martial arts. Anyway now I'm done. I'll write more later!
Love, PFC Brad Hopper

Photos finally!!

Go here:
to photo number 15 - look at the kid second from the right, top row. I know that’s my boy’s hand…his face is a bit thin….
Then go to photo 16. He’s in the middle on the top row…

Finally….some pictures!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Letter from The Seventy

We got this letter from the Church office of the Seventy in Salt Lake City yesterday, at the same time we got the latest letter from Brad (below):

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hopper:

We recently learned that Bradley has joined the military and is attending basic training in Ft. Benning, GA. We are pleased to inform you that he has been attending the Church services on base and are grateful for the spirit he brings to the meetings. Brother Funk is the Church leader at Ft. Benning and will do all he can to help strengthen Bradley's faith and testimony. We appreciate your support and know you join with us in asking that the Lord will guide and protect him during this time of uncertainty and turmoil in the world.

In these troubled times, it is heartwarming to see sons and daughters courageously step forward to help preserve our freedom and way of life. You can be proud of the part you played in molding Bradley's character. Courage and patriotism do not come automatically; they are planted in the hearts of children by their parents. We express our gratitude to you for your selfless service in his behalf.

We have a deep and abiding interest in Bradley's welfare and want to ensure the blessings of Church membership are available wherever he is stationed. As military members move around, occasionally they are unable to find out where and when the Church meetings are held. Our Military Relations Division can assist them. Likewise, we are able to help concerned parents locate the bishop or branch president where their son or daughter is stationed. In addition, many times we can assist in locating the name of a group leader aboard a ship or at a deployed location around the world.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the Military Relations Division at (801) 240-2286 or e-mail them at We know that the Lord is mindful of Bradley and the challenges he will face as he valiantly serves in the military.

Robert C. Oaks

Letter from September 14, 2008

Mom & Dad:
I'm scared. I guess it hit me hard yesterday, while we were having a class on mines and IED's, just how real it all is. They've made it very clear to all of us: We are all going to either Iraq or Afganistan. And it's scaring me to death. I don't know what I was thinking when I signed that contract.

There is one thing that's been comforting though. I re-read my patriarchal blessing, and it helps me to know what I should be doing, and that if I do the right things in life, everything will happen according to the Lord's plan. And that if I live faithfully-no matter what happens to me in Iraq or otherwise-we will be together forever. That is the most comforting feeling of all.

I missed church today. Ironically, because I was reading my patriarchal blessing and the formation time for LDS passed by without me realizing it-but it has given me time and a reason to think, to read my scriptures and write this. The Army has really shaken my faith, given me direction and helped to show me what I need to do. I'm going to try my hardest to do it. I love you.

Letter from September 12, 2008

Mom & Dad:
I guess it's okay if you type letters if it means you'll send more!

I bet Drew's happy! He looks like be's got a good setup there. I still need his adress!

You should send some pictures of this Agility Course you made for Annie (and Bella). Where is it, in the back yard? What does she think about it?

Grandma Hopper sent me a letter. She wants to send me chocolates here...Can you make sure she doesn't? if they are sent here they will be taken & eaten by the Drill Sergeants, so if she could just send them to you & I'll pick them up at Christmas, that would be awesome.

Well, I'm out of time. I love you guys lots, I'll write more later!

-PFC Brad Hopper

Monday, September 15, 2008

Letter from September 11, 2008

Mom & Dad:
Hey again. One month ago, do you think I could have voluntarily gotten, then given an IV? Well, that's what we did today. We're on our first aid week, so everyone got to have and give an IV today; it's called "Stick Day". I did it without any problems at all! If nothing else, this whole Army thing has at least all but fixed my fear of needles.
We also learned how to do more complex things like first aid to a sucking chest wound, and needle chest decompressions, but we don't get to try those out on each other.
So how are things at home? It's probably pretty quiet, seeing how Drew and I are both gone now. That's okay, we'll be back around December to liven things up again.
HAPPY (EARLY) BIRTHDAY, MOM! Okay, when you get this it won't be early, but right now it is, so there. I love you guys lots.
PFC Brad Hopper
P.S. Could you send me more envelopes & stamps? Please?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watch for Photos of Brad's Battalion

Here is a website where photos of Brad's Battalion should soon be posted. When you get there, click on 2-58 and scroll down to fox company. Right now, the last group is still posted, but we expect to see some of his group very soon:

Letter from September 7, 2008

Mom and Dad:
Hey, it's Sunday today. I just got back from church. Apparently most of the day today is down time, so I get to write. I guess I'll try to give a comple rundown on what's happened so far. I've been in basic for a total of 9 days now. The first day was rough - lots of smoking (punishments), we had to hold our bags above our heads for about 15 felt like 3 hours. The next few days got better slowly. We have done the confidence course (a bunch of obstacles like climbing an upsidedown ladder then flipping over it and coming back down), the leadership course (problem solving - platforms and obstacles that require teamwork, most over water), and the Eagle Tower (repelling and Rope ladders). They've all taught me a lot about myself, and building our team at the same time (yeah, right). My frustrating. I hope we can pull it together soon. On that same note, yesterday one of the guys in our platoon decided to make a phone call without asking permission or anything. He got an Article 15, we all got chewed out, and the whole platoon lost phone priveleges "until further notice", so don't expect any phone calls from me for a while.
We're actually getting a lot more sleep and a lot better food than I was expecting. We haven't been woken up in the middle of the night yet!
Well, it's just about chow time, so I'm gonna wrap it up. Hope to hear from you soon!
Love you, PFC Brad Hopper

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Letter from September 3, 2008

Mom and Dad:
Hey again. I haven't had a chance to write, they specifically told us not to for some reason. I started basic on the 29th and I'm now laying in bed on the end of day 3. I'm ver sore...Lots of physical work, as you know. I'm carrying around an M4 assault rifle with me wherever I go now, it's a little weird but they're trying to get us used to it. So far we haven't done much substantial training, mostly just PT, getting smoked, getting yelled at, and standing/marching in formation. Tomorrow we do the confidence course.
A friend of mine, his name is Buck is having trouble with the PT...He's only 19, but he's having heart problems, and they might send him home. He passed out once already due to it.
Apparently mail takes a while (1-2 weeks) to get here, so please, write me as often as you can, I will do the same. We got 5 minutes of phone time today, but you didn't pick up :-( I hope you got my message.
Could you guys maybe take a family photo and send it to me? I love and miss you all a lot.
PFC Hopper
PS-I'm a squad leader

Monday, September 1, 2008

Everybody Write!!

This is a new blogspot where the Hopper Family will post happenings and letters from Brad, our oldest son. We are incredibly proud of him and want all who are interested to know of his progress!
Please write to him often...he has told us (and his dad remembers) how much letters buoy him up and help him to stay strong.
His address is:

129 PFC Hopper Bradley
F Co 2-58 IN, ITB
9375 Conway Drive
Fort Benning, Georgia 31905-4926

Laurie Hopper



In Barracks 10-5-08

Grandma Inman and Brad

Grandma Inman and Brad
Thanks for your support Grandma!

Family Photo

Family Photo
The Family at MEPS

Swearing In Day

Swearing In Day
The Swear In