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Army Capt. Kimberly N. Hampton

Died January 2, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


27, of Easley, S.C.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed Jan. 2 when her OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopter was shot down by enemy ground fire in Fallujah, Iraq.

Parents, fianc© lay to rest first woman from South Carolina to die in Iraq

Associated Press

EASLEY, S.C. — Army Capt. Kimberly Hampton accomplished a lot in her 27 years.

She was an honors graduate from Presbyterian College who never lost a tennis match. She became the battalion commander of the ROTC unit there, a job that prepared her to command the Delta Troop in the 1st Squadron of the 17th Cavalry Regiment in Iraq.

She was in her second term of military service when the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter she was piloting was shot down Jan. 2.

On Saturday, about 1,200 people recalled Hampton’s life as she was laid to rest near her parents’ home with full military honors.

Hampton, who was based at Fort Bragg, N.C., was the first female pilot killed in Iraq. She was also the first woman from South Carolina to die there.

To her parents, Hampton, an only child, was “baby girl.” To Army Capt. Will Braman, she was his fianc©e, who he planned to marry when both returned from Baghdad. To her tennis teammates, she was “Kimbo.” To those serving with her in Iraq, her voice was “Dark Horse Six.”

Not everyone at the funeral knew Hampton. There were hundreds of veterans and members of Rock Springs Baptist Church, where the ceremony was held.

Some mourners worked with her father, Dale, at Fort Hill Gas and Electric. Hundreds more who had never met her lined the path of the funeral procession, waving American flags at the passing motorcade. Mourners shook from the cold and from tears as some huddled under blankets and saluted at her casket in the near-freezing weather.

Everyone who knew her seemed to have a story about Hampton. She was president of the student body and captain of the tennis team at Easley High School. Robin Smith taught Hampton how to play shortstop on the softball team their senior year. She said she will always remember Hampton’s heart. “She was a friend to everyone,” Smith said.

Presbyterian College President John Griffith remembered Hampton as motivated and generous. “She was always striving for more,” he said.

“Our world is so much in need of heroes. I’m here to tell you today that at Presbyterian College, she is a hero,” Griffith told the those at the church. Dozens more watched the funeral on a television in the church’s overflow room.

Her Fort Bragg commander, Lt. Col. Terry Morgan, said she could be tough on her troops but was an inspiring leader who rewarded a job well done with “her warm smile and trademark wink.”

Hampton was stationed in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. She lived in Fayetteville, N.C., before she left for Iraq on Aug. 31.

She had also served in Korea and Afghanistan.

“She was doing what she enjoyed doing. She was trained well, and she felt it an honor to serve her country,” said Hampton’s mom, Ann.

The Kiowa helicopter, which must be operated by two people, is designed for reconnaissance and observation missions and is often used to spot targets for Apache attack helicopters. The second pilot was injured in the crash near Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim town west of Baghdad under the charge of the 82nd.

Hampton wanted to be a pilot since she was young, her parents said. She grew up in Easley and wrote a paper for her third grade class that described how she had always wanted to fly, they said.

“We gave that to her as part of her graduation gift from Army flight school, and I think it pretty much blew her away that she had written such things as that as far back as the third grade,” Dale Hampton said.

Friends of Hampton’s parents said the Easley City Council is planning a memorial in her name.

Hampton’s parents were given Hampton’s Bronze medal, an Air Medal and the Purple Heart.

“The greatest accolade Kimberly Hampton will be given will not be here but in Heaven,” said the Rev. David Gallamore, pastor of the church. “Thank God for the life of Kimberly Hampton.”


Gunfire kills Bragg-based helicopter pilot

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina soldier based at Fort Bragg, N.C., has become the first woman pilot killed in Iraq.

Capt. Kimberly Hampton, 27, died Jan. 2 after her OH-58 Kiowa helicopter went down in enemy fire near Fallujah, her parents said. The other pilot on the helicopter was injured in the crash.

Hampton, an Easley High School graduate, also was the first woman from South Carolina killed in combat in Iraq.

She was stationed in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg. She lived in Fayetteville, N.C., before she left for Iraq on Aug. 31.

Dale and Ann Hampton said the Army called to put them in touch with Kimberly’s boyfriend, who also is an Army pilot stationed in Baghdad. Dale Hampton said Kimberly’s boyfriend, Capt. Will Braman, will be coming to Easley “shortly” to be with her family.

The couple “were considering very strongly becoming engaged when both got back to the United States,” Dale Hampton said.

The Hamptons said they were told that witnesses identified that missile fire brought down Hampton’s helicopter. The Kiowa, which must be operated by two people, is designed for reconnaissance and observation missions and is often used to spot targets for Apache attack helicopters.

Kimberly Hampton was an only child who wanted to be a pilot since she was young, her parents said. She grew up in Easley and wrote a paper for her third grade class that described how she had always wanted to fly, they said.

“We gave that to her as part of her graduation gift from Army flight school, and I think it pretty much blew her away that she had written such things as that as far back as the third grade,” Dale Hampton said.

Kimberly was her high school’s student body president and captain of the tennis team. She played tennis at Furman University for a year but graduated in 1998 from Presbyterian College, where she studied English and was the battalion commander of the ROTC unit. She was recruited by West Point to play tennis but decided it was “not a place for women, that it was a place for men,” Dale Hampton said.

The military seemed like a natural thing for her to do, Hampton said, because he and Kimberly’s grandfather had served in the military.

“It was just probably part of her background that we didn’t think a whole lot about until looking back now,” he said. She had also served in Korea and Afghanistan.

Dale Hampton said Kimberly “was smiling real big, she was eager to get to Iraq and do what she was trained to do and she was very upbeat about taking command” as she deployed for Iraq from Fort Bragg.

“She was doing what she enjoyed doing. She was trained well, and she felt it an honor to serve her country,” Ann Hampton said.

— Associated Press


S.C. pilot killed in Iraq to be honored at state tournament

BELTON, S.C. — Former Presbyterian College tennis coach Donna Arnold came looking for prospects in the early 1990s at the Wachovia Palmetto Championships and immediately saw something special in Kimberly Hampton.

Capt. Hampton, who became a college tennis star for Arnold, went on to a military career as an Army helicopter pilot. She was the first female pilot to die in the Iraqi conflict when she was shot down in January near Fallujah.

Hampton will be honored Friday at one of South Carolina’s premier junior tournaments when the Tiger Hustle Award, given to a girl from the event’s 12-and-under division, is renamed for her.

“It wasn’t like she was the No. 1 player with all the big schools looking at her. But she was one of those sleepers who develop,” Arnold recalled.

“She hustled, went for every ball and wasn’t a brat on the court. She was everything I look for in a player, and each year she quietly improved,” Arnold said.

Palmetto Championships director Rex Maynard says he knew Hampton through the tournament. He said the 27-year-old woman’s death brought the war home to him in a very personal way.

“Things like that happen, and it’s all over the front page and all over the news, and then it goes away. Anything we can do to remember her is good,” Maynard said.

More than 1,000 people turned out for Hampton’s burial in Easley. Some remembered her as a gallant servicewoman, but others knew her from her tennis accomplishments.

She attended Presbyterian on an ROTC scholarship. Hampton played for Arnold for three years with the Blue Hose. Hampton became team captain and won the South Atlantic Conference singles title her final two years.

Hampton helped the Blue Hose reach the NCAA Division II tournament and ended her career with a 27-0 record in conference singles play.

Hampton was named the SAC female athlete of the year in 1998. The day before her graduation that spring, Hampton was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army.

Arnold, who is senior director of programs and sports director at the Laurens Family YMCA, said Hampton will be enshrined in the SAC Hall of Fame.

Earlier this year, the South Carolina branch of the United State Tennis Association renamed its most improved junior girl award in honor of Hampton.

Arnold expects Hampton’s character and skill will be showcased each time her Palmetto Championship award is given out.

“She had that athleticism and that burning desire to do well in everything she did,” Arnold said. “She was one of a kind.”

— Associated Press


Female helicopter pilot killed in Iraq was living her dreams

When Kimberly Hampton headed off to war the first time, she sent her mother an e-mail, joking about the hazards of flying a small helicopter. But she had a serious message, too.

“If there is anything I can say to ease your mind ... if anything ever happens to me, you can be certain that I am doing the things I love,” she wrote. “... I’m living my dreams for sure, living life on the edge at times and pushing the envelope. ...

“So, worry if you must,” she added, “but you can be sure that your only child is living a full, exciting life and is HAPPY!”

Kimberly Hampton wrote that message on Feb. 4, 2003, while stationed in Afghanistan. Eleven months later, the 27-year-old Army captain was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, when her Kiowa helicopter was shot down.

“A lot of times when I’m feeling down, I’ll read it,” her mother, Ann, says of the note. “It doesn’t take away the hurt or the loneliness. It does reinforce the fact that she was happy.”

Growing up in Easley, S.C., Kimberly Hampton excelled at most everything: She was the high school student body president and captain of the tennis team, then ROTC battalion commander and an honors graduate from Presbyterian College.

Her dreams of taking to the skies began early. When she finished Army flight school, her parents presented her with a composition she had written in third grade saying she “would like to fly like a bird.”

Hampton liked the structure and discipline of the military and in college wrote a letter to her mother, saying: “The United States needs good, solid troops in the hot spots. That’s where I want to be.”

Stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, she had taken over a troop command months before her death.

“She was an overachiever,” her mother says. “She felt she had to work harder, maybe because she was female. But that didn’t bother her.”

Ann Hampton says she was comforted by a chaplain in Iraq who said he admired her daughter because “she never lost her femininity.”

“Being in command, she had to be rough and tough ... but she was extremely fair,” her mother says. “Just because she lived in a man’s world, she didn’t try to be a man. At night, she could take her hair out of the bun, and still look like a beautiful girl.”

“She was a sweet girl, tenderhearted,” her mother adds. “She was just real genuine.”

— Associated Press

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