Hundreds of people attended a memorial and funeral service at the Dillant-Hopkins Airport to honor Third Class Fireman Edwin Hopkins. Born and raised in Swanzey, Hopkins was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.
Hopkins’ niece Faye Boore said she was amazed at the number of people who came to pay their respects. “There were over 300 people at visitation last night. There were military groups [such as] the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. There were kids from the flying school, the high school and the Boy Scouts came. I mean it’s history and I’m so grateful they came to honor him, finally, after all this time,” she said.
The American flag was draped across two arched fire truck ladders in honor of the deceased. Swanzey Deputy Fire Chief Mick Sanchez said, “We were asked to help show honors to…Hopkins, so we brought a ladder truck to harness a flag to a Chesterfield ladder truck.”
Retired commander of the Composite Health Care (CHC) of the United States Navy and reverend Samir Habiby, who led the service, said, “This is a unique opportunity to remember that we have a wonderful country, regardless of where we are politically. We are all Americans who care about and love our nation, and we serve it with honor and dedication.”
Jerome Weinrieb, age 91 and longest former serving commander of post 84 of the American Legion, said,“I’m here to pay respects to a fallen comrade. I had many friends who did not come back. By saying farewell to Hopkins, it’s like saying goodbye to some of my buddies who did not come back,” Weinrieb said.
The Keene airport operations and maintenance manager Mike Moriarty said the Dillant-Hopkins Airport bears the name of Edwin Hopkins in remembrance of his services. For this reason, Moriarty said, “We had to get involved.” Moriarty said, “We contacted different branches of the military [and] we tried getting some assistance with the New Hampshire National Guard. In talking with the Navy, we thought it was only fitting to have him flown in to the Dillant-Hopkins Airport.” He continued that the Connecticut Air National Guard provided the plane to transport Hopkins’ casket.
To further honor Hopkins, the Connecticut Air National Guard took the casket up in their C130 plane to fly the body all around Swanzey one last time.
Moriarty said, “A soldier returning home after 75 years from the attack on Pearl Harbor should receive the same honor as a fallen soldier returning home from Afghanistan.” He also said that because of all the help they received from the different branches of military and the many civilian supporters from various supporting clubs, the event came together much faster and much easier than Moriarty expected.
Hopkins’ niece Boore said that in 2008, the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action association (POW MIA) contacted her and told her they had identified her uncle’s remains after exhuming a commingled casket. Boore said, “I decided it was time for him to come home.” Boore said a civilian medical examiner working for the Navy identified the body in 1943. However, because of the controversial nature of the Pearl Harbor attack, the examiner would not release the names of the deceased to their families.
Sebastien Mehegan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org