In honor of all those who serve or have served, we continue to share their stories in our special series Veteran’s Voices.
Meet a man who held the highest position in the North Dakota National Guard, overseeing and supporting thousands of soldiers.
“I made two really, really good choices in my life,” shared Ron Hopfauf, a Retired Command Sergeant Major with the North Dakota National Guard.
“The first was marrying that woman over there,” he said, gesturing to his wife.
“…and the second was joining the military,” he laughed.
And it’s true, in that order.
Hopfauf enlisted in the N.D. National Guard in 1964, and married the love of his life the following year. Verdel Hopfauf is truly his girl next door, a woman he knew since childhood.
“My wife was just about as much military as me,” he added.
For 35 years, he spent most of his days and hours, serving.
“Family is a big deal when you’re a military guy. They’ve got to support you 100% or it doesn’t work out,” Hopfauf explained.
The same goes for their two kids.
“They were totally supportive as well,” Hopfauf shared.
“I mean, well when you’re children they have to…we drug them along. You know, they just came along with us.”
And exploring his home state was just part of the job, from Mandan, up to Rugby and back down to Minot.
“My family was in tow the whole time,” Hopfauf said.
Eventually, he landed in Bismarck. He moved up through the ranks, and in 1994, he was chosen to be the state Command Sergeant Major, the highest-ranking enlisted person in the North Dakota Guard, representing about 2,300 soldiers for six years.
“I rarely had a weekend off when I became CSM because there was always a unit drilling somewhere in the state. I would travel from unit to unit and visit with soldiers, trying to find out if they’ve got any problems; what’s good what’s bad; what’s going on,” he shared.
One of the career moments Hopfauf will always remember is inviting the Sergeant Major of the Army to an annual weekend with military leaders at Camp Grafton.
“That is a big deal, and I thought I’d never get him in. Well lo and behold, he responded and said he’d be happy to join us for the weekend,” he said proudly.
And service was not just a portion of Hopfauf’s career, it was his life from 1964 to 2000.
“Every job has its good days and bad days,” he added.
“But I think there were way more good days than I had than bad.”
He tells me what he enjoyed most about the military was the comradery and the feeling that he was part of something greater than himself, another family.
After retiring from the Guard, Hopfauf worked as a Disaster Recovery Specialist with the state Department of Emergency Services.
Now, he’s officially retired and enjoys finally getting to spend days with his wife, fulltime.