This month, the Theatre Department at Presbyterian College presented Kimberly’s Flight, a new work created by students in PC’s recently formed Centre for Devised Theatre. In this new program, a theme for a play is determined during the fall semester and students in courses focusing on creating theatre write a script. In the spring auditions are held and students either perform in the play, create the set, or work backstage providing technical support. This new program is designed to challenge audiences to contemplate important issues in the world. This year’s offering focuses on one of our own, Captain Kimberly Hampton, PC Class of 1998.
Kimberly Nicole Hampton, a multi-talented young lady from Easley, SC had been recruited during her high school tennis career by PC women’s tennis coach, Donna Arnold. Kimberly chose to play Division I tennis at Furman University her freshman year. Seeking a different type of college experience, Kimberly transferred to Presbyterian College in the fall of 1995 for her sophomore year. Three years later she had won every South Atlantic Conference singles tennis match that she played during her three years at Presbyterian. She led the team to three SAC championships as captain in 1997 and 1998 and was named the SAC Player of the Year for those years, as well. In 1998 she was named the SAC Female Athlete of the Year for all women’s sports within the conference.
Not only was Kimberly an outstanding tennis player, but she also excelled in the classroom. Academic distinction at the college level is demanding for any student and more so for athletes who must plan time for study around practice sessions, travel, and matches. Kimberly, well organized and self-disciplined, met these challenges and was named to the Dean’s List for five of the six semesters she attended PC.
Kimberly attended PC on an ROTC scholarship, adding to her daily schedule the early morning PT (physical training) required of ROTC cadets. Knowing that she wanted to be “an aviator and a paratrooper,” Kimberly chose service in the armed forces as her life’s goal. She served as the PC Highlander Battalion’s cadet commander during her senior year.
Kimberly graduated from Presbyterian College with honors, cum laude with a major in English and a minor in Physical Education in 1998. That June she was named to the GTE Academic All-American Women’s At-Large Team in District III, an honor bestowed by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Prior to graduation in May 1998, Kimberly received her Army commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was awarded PC’s Wysor Saber, the Highlander Batallion’s most prestigious award. That summer she served as a Gold Bar Recruiter for the college’s ROTC Department, then reported to Fort Rucker’s U.S. Army Helicopter Flight School in Alabama that October.
Kimberly excelled in the flight training program, graduating second in her class. Over the next several years, she was stationed in Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
In the Foreword of Kimberly’s Flight, a book written by Kimberly’s mother, Ann Hampton, with Anna Simon, Kimberly’s commander in Iraq wrote of Kimberly: “While most aspiring helicopter pilots in the Army, men and women, choose to serve as Blackhawk or Chinook pilots who ferry troops about the battlefield, Kimberly chose the far more dangerous path of becoming an OH-58 “Kiowa” pilot. This specialty meant that her mission was to actively seek out and engage the enemy, and it has only been open to women since the 1990s. She subsequently became one of the first female combat aviation commanders in the history of the 82nd Airborne. It was this decision which inevitably put her at the front lines outside Fallujah, Iraq, on a fateful winter day.” Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq
On January 2, 2004, Captain Kimberly Hampton, lost her life while serving as the commander of Delta Troop, 1st Squadron-17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. She and her co-pilot were searching by air for enemy forces in support of American troops conducting ground force maneuvers.
In an email to her parents the previous year Kimberly wrote, “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. I’m living my dreams for sure, living life on the edge at times and pushing the envelope. But, I’m doing things others only dream about from the safety and comfort of home. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything, I truly love it! So, worry if you must, but you can be sure that your only child is living a full, exciting life and is HAPPY!”
Many faculty and staff on campus have fond memories of Kimberly and those who did not know her personally, remember the smile she shared with everyone. Kimberly lived a life which exemplified the PC Spirit and we will never forget her!