Members of Concord Baptist Church in Clermont are used to honoring those in military service - a wall in the church's hallway has names and pictures of all the local men and women serving around the world.
But at last Sunday's service, it was the church members who were honored by the military.
Lt. Col. Cliff Hoppman, who grew up in Clermont, returned home while on leave to deliver a special gift - a flag that was flown over Baghdad in honor of the church on July 8.
"There he was in his full regalia, and he blew us away," said Senior Pastor Alan Morris. "He presented a flag that was flown specifically for us on July 8 of this year in Baghdad. When they raised the flag up they said, ‘We raise this flag in honor of Concord Baptist Church in Clermont for the military ministry they provide for our troops abroad.' And they said the same thing as they lowered it."
Morris said the church prays each Sunday for 31 soldiers, naming each one. On birthdays and Christmas, the church sends the soldiers care packages.
"We also have their names listed on our military board and pictures of them, so people who walk down the hallways will see our military men to remind them of the service they're doing," Morris said.
Hoppman left Tuesday with his wife, Lee Ann, and three children to go back to the base in Germany where he's now stationed. His father, Bill Hoppman, said a good friend of Hoppman's, a sergeant in command of a unit serving in Baghdad, sent the flag to him, along with a plaque dedicating its use.
Bill, who attends Concord Baptist with his wife, Ann, said Sunday's service was "very inspiring - to both us and, actually, our whole family was there," he said, adding that also in attendance were Hoppman's sister Diane Dial, her husband Terry and their family, along with his other sister Emily Moothart and her husband Doug, who live in Washington, D.C.
Morris said the event meant a lot to him and the church members.
"This Sunday was by far the most obvious form of appreciation from one of our soldiers," said Morris. "He said, ‘I'm going to be in town and I would just like to have a couple of minutes' time to recognize the church.'"