PAINESVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – Ava Clark and her sister Eden were reading to one another during a classroom exercise at Madison Avenue Elementary in Painesville.
Just that morning, they had spoken with their grandfather, Command Sgt, Major Matthew Hopkins, who has been serving a tour of duty overseas with the the 37th infantry brigade combat team, Army National Guard.
Both thought their grandfather, who they call “Papa,” was still overseas with a time difference of 10 hours.
What both did not know is that he was home, and with the help of the school and family members, he was there to surprise them.
Their teacher, Jennifer Sulecki, summoned the entire class to the front of the room and soon after, the kids were told that there would be a special guest reading to them.
When Hopkins entered the room his, granddaughters stood and went to him, sharing hugs of joy.
“Well, Papa’s a great Papa to me and he gives me love more than anything,” said Eden.
“Its good to have him home because when he is home, I think that he can be a little funny, he can tell me jokes. He can make funny faces at me,” she added.
Hopkins, who patiently read a book to the entire class, has been in the military for more than 29 years, making a commitment when he was 17.
Since then, he has been on numerous deployments and he says every time he has come home, it has been wonderful.
“Being away does take a toll. Families progress and things like that and you miss life events, but it’s all for the greater good of the world as a whole,” said Hopkins.
“I appreciate coming home to a family that has supported me throughout my career and the decisions I have made or the advancement of my career and whatnot, so it doesn’t get old coming home,” he added.
“I don’t think they see him as Papa in the Army, you know? It’s just their papa, they love him,” said Holly Hopkins, Matthew’s wife.
“You see the man in the uniform, but truly he’s a softie. He’s the biggest teddy bear in the world,” said his daughter Aspen, mother of both Ava and Eden.
“Yeah, I’m a grandfather, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m just a regular man doing my thing to support my family and their endeavors as well and enjoying life as well,” said Hopkins.