Hopping was born in 1921 in Vietnam, where his father had lumber interests. He developed his connection with the ocean while growing up on Pacific islands before coming to the United States for military school and then the Army. He served in World War II as a medical evacuation pilot in various Pacific theaters. He also served aboard a minesweeper during the Korean War..
Army soldiers burning waste at an outpost in Iraq in 2007. The Pentagon has since restricted the use of such burn pits.