“We always thought that phone call was saying he was on his way home. But instead it was reversed.” –Johnny Johnson
Jessica McBride/Managing Editor
Hero memorialized with new fire station
OKEMAH, Oklahoma — Johnny Johnson does not remember much about his cousin. But what he does remember, he treasures.
They were a close-knit family. The children played together, overlooking their near 10-year age gap.
His father’s sister was Capt. Michael Hope’s mother, Lena. He remembers she loved to laugh.
“We spent a lot of time with her. So I have to believe that he was so much like her… I have to believe that Michael was the same way,” Johnson said.
He believes the younger children would have loved to spend more time with Hope, but unfortunately would not get the chance.
Hope was a civilian employee at Tinker Air Force Base for seven years before he enlisted in 1965.
“His mom said that he couldn’t do nothing but look at the planes and wanted to be up in the planes,” Johnson said.
After graduating from officer training, Hope told his mother he did not want to fly commercial planes, he wanted to be where the action was.
During the Vietnam War, Hope took part in reconnaissance missions. His tour ended, but he extended it for another six months because of a pilot shortage.
His third six-month extension would be his last.
“We were waiting and counting the days that he was supposed to come home and we were looking forward to that,” Johnson said.
Just before he left work at his barbershop June 8, 1970, Johnson’s father received the phone call that Hope was missing in action.
“We always thought that phone call was saying he was on his way home,” Johnson said. “But instead it was reversed.”
His dad sat in the barber chair, praying that Hope had worked his pilot magic to get to safety.
Enemy forces shot Hope’s plane June 7, 1970. Six days later, his parents were notified that he was killed in action. Hope was 29-years-old.
Johnson remembers the funeral. Friends and family gathered at Hope’s mother’s home before the church service.
“It would’ve been great to have been able to meet him when he came home because we had looked forward to that, because we had heard so much from his mom,” he said.
Hope was awarded the Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Johnson said Hope did not join the military for the glory, but for his country.
“I think that’s what I’d like everybody to know was that he was a proud person and loved his country, loved his family, loved his mates,” he said.
In March, the City of Del City held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fire station that will be named after Johnson’s cousin.
In a March 6 article by ‘The Oklahoman’ about the ceremony, Del City Mayor Brian Linley called Hope Del City’s, “own Audie Murphy.”
Johnson said he’s proud the building is being named for his cousin.
Eight rows from the east in section 11, space 13 of Sunnylane Cemetery rests a Mvskoke hero lost too soon. Buried near his parents, he is surrounded by some born before him, lost after him and some who also answered their country’s call. Some markers read of those that have not yet passed on from this life.
But when the Michael Clinton Hope Memorial Building opens around spring 2018, the heroes that answer the call on someone’s worst day will be surrounded by Hope’s legacy.