On Saturday the Patriot Guard was staged in the parking lot of Bi-Lo in Clinton. We were there to escort the parents of Captain Kimberly Hampton to the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at Clinton High School.
Kimberly Hampton, the first woman pilot in American military history to be killed in action, was shot down near Fallujah, Iraq on 02 JAN 04. She grew up in Easley and went to school at Presbyterian College where she was a star tennis player.
Kimberly’s parents have formed a relationship with the Patriot Guard. We honor the fallen and they appreciate that. But, we had never conducted an Honor Mission for Kimberly Hampton. She was killed over a year before the Patriot Guard came to be. That had bugged me for years. I wanted Kimberly to have her Honor Mission.
And so, when I learned that CPT Hampton would be inducted into the Laurens County Hall of Heroes, I determined to organize an Honor Mission of sorts for her. That’s how it came to be that we were there at Bi-Lo awaiting Dale and Ann Hampton on Saturday.
A lady who had come to buy groceries saw all those motorcycles and walked out to look at them. She asked what we were doing. When she was told why we were there………that we were riding for CPT Kimberly Hampton…….well, that’s when it started to get weird. For a moment I thought the lady was going to faint.
She had been in the United States Army, made a career of it in fact. She retired in 2005. Before she retired one of her duties was to serve as an escort for fallen soldiers. When an American soldier is killed in action tradition holds that they never be left alone. A fellow soldier is with them at all times until they are laid to rest. This lady performed that duty. And the last soldier that she brought home from overseas? Captain Kimberly Hampton.
She had retired and wanted to live in the South. She decided on South Carolina and picked Clinton. Then, she decided to go buy groceries at Bi-Lo on Saturday and became curious about all those motorcycles. Coincidence? No, I don’t think so. I told her I didn’t know if she needed it or if Mr. and Mrs. Hampton needed it but…….she was supposed to be there. There were hugs and tears as she met Kimberly’s Mother and explained her connection. On Saturday evening as Kimberly was inducted into the Hall of Heroes I was proud to see this lady smiling and occasionally wiping a tear away.
This volunteer job I have has it’s rewards. Immense rewards. No, the rewards cannot be exchanged for cash. They’re much more valuable than that.