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Honoring a Hero:
Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament 
Raises Funds for 'Operation Dragonfly'

Memorial Walk at Captain Kimberly Hampton Library in Easley 
Will Honor Veterans and Display a Kiowa Warrior Helicopter

By Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Dale Hampton hugs his wife, Ann, as he speaks at the opening ceremony of the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament, held at Smithfields Country Club in Easley. The golf tournament, organized by Tommy Chastain and Karla Kelley, raised funds for Operation Dragonfly, which is spearheaded by Jim Garrison. A Memorial Park at the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Library in Easley will honor veterans and will display an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter, the same type of helicopter Kimberly flew. Read the article and view 63 photos below.

The Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament at Smithfields Country Club was a great success, raising $60,000 toward a Memorial Walk at the Captain Kimberly Hampton Library in Easley to honor Hampton and other veterans, and keeping alive the memory of the Easley native and first American female military pilot shot down and killed by hostile fire. She was only 27 when she was killed in action in January of 2004. The Memorial Walk, at the library named in her memory, will include an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Helicopter such as the one that Kimberly flew.

“It is just a glorious day, and we are so proud,” Kimberly’s mother, Ann, told The Christian View magazine. “We know that Kimberly is not going to be forgotten, and I’m just ‘blown away.’ So many people have come together to make this happen, and we’re just so proud and humbled, very humbled. We are just so thrilled and honored and humbled by Operation Dragonfly, and by the number of people who’ve come out.”

Ann added that she and her husband, Dale, were also surprised by one of the tournament participants, a man who served with their daughter in her troop in Iraq. He surprised them not only with his presence but also with the gift of a model helicopter that is a replica of the helicopter Kimberly flew. He shipped it from Texas, where he now works for Bell Helicopter, to Fort Hill Natural Gas in Easley, where Dale had served as President until his retirement, and the Hamptons were surprised with it the day of the tournament. 

“It was a total surprise,” Ann said. “Willie works for Bell Helicopter, the company that manufactures the helicopter that Kimberly flew. He found this replica, and he had it cleaned up and refurbished. He shipped it to Fort Hill, and so they’ve had it, and they surprised us with it today.”

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

The Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament at Smithfields Country Club in Easley raised funds toward a Memorial Park at the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Library.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

An American Flag waves in honor of a hero, Easley native Captain Kimberly Hampton, who died on January 2, 2004, when the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter she was flying was shot down at Fallujah, Iraq.

Coby Gambrell, Director of Golf at Smithfields Country Club, welcomed everyone gathered for the opening ceremony prior to the start of the tournament. “We’re very excited to be hosting what I feel is the greatest event that we’ve ever had here that’s an outside event,” he told the crowd. “The turnout is incredible. Mr. Jim Garrison, Karla Kelley, Sumur Phillips and all of the volunteers, Tommy Chastain -- what an incredible job pulling this together. It’s really amazing.”

Jim Garrison, who heads up Operation Dragonfly, greeted the crowd. “Welcome to the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament,” he said. “What a beautiful day that God has given us for this red, white, and blue event. We’ve been planning for this for a long time. I’d like to give a few thank you’s first. First of all, to Coby and the staff of Smithfields Country Club for the great hospitality that they have extended to Operation Dragonfly. Next, to the tournament directors. They’ve left me out of this. This is not me. This is the tournament directors, Karla Kelley and Tommy Chastain, and their tournament committee, and they have done a wonderful job. It’s just unbelievable. Thank you very much. Many, many sponsors, volunteers who have worked months and months to prepare for this to make this a reality, and the many volunteers who arrived this morning, who have been working hard since 8:00 this morning to put all of this together to prepare for this event today. Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure today to introduce to you Ann and Dale Hampton.”

“Ann and I really do appreciate everyone coming today to help pay respect to our daughter,” Dale Hampton told the crowd. “It means more to us than you could possibly imagine. It’s just wonderful. It thrills us to look out there and see you. As Jim said, the weather couldn’t be better. This is perfect. So, we want to thank you again and wish all of you good luck. Hit ‘em straight down the middle.”

“We have had a great community effort here,” said Karla Kelley, who introduced Ella Hennessee. “Ella is going to lead us in the national anthem. I invite all of you to join in. Let’s make this a huge patriotic event.”

The Easley High School NJROTC presented the colors, and then Hennesee sang the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by a prayer by Dr. John Adams, Pastor of Easley First Baptist Church.

“Would you join me now in prayer,” said Adams. “Almighty God. Precious Lord and tender spirit, we bow before you with humble gratitude for such a day as this and for such a tournament like this. We thank you, oh God, that we live in our country because of heroic warriors who filled the call to service and respond, even giving their very life for their country. We remember today, from the depths of our heart, mind, and soul, the gift of Captain Kimberly Hampton. She’s one of us, oh God. She grew up here. We know her. She served, and she gave her life. We thank you for parents, like Mr. and Mrs. Hampton, who raised someone to such an extent that they would respond to such a call. So, today, we remember, and may these memories guide us and sustain us in the present and in the future. And we thank you, Lord, for each who is playing today. Give them safety. Give them a good time. And then, Lord, for the cause, that we might have a Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Park and a Veterans Memorial Walk, that we may honor those who serve, remember those who gave their all, and that we might teach those in the present to know that freedom is not free. It costs. Thank you for all who prepared, countless hours, dynamic vision. And I believe the smile of the sun and the beauty of this day is your way of saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ We pray this in the strong and holy name of Jesus, the name that is above every name. Amen.”

Photos in the slideshow below by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

The 48 photographs below are from the opening ceremony for the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament, held at Smithfields Country Club in Easley.
After the opening ceremony, Garrison’s wife, retired educator and Easley High School Principal Betty Garrison, introduced the Hamptons to Chris Bowers, who serves on Pickens County Council and represents the Easley area. Bowers told them he was honored to meet them, and he thanked them for their support.

“Without your support, it wouldn’t be possible,” Bowers said. “The namesake is so important, that we always remember. The preacher made the comment that freedom isn’t free. It has a cost, and we have to remember that.” He added that the Operation Dragonfly project will help recognize that cost. “So, we want to thank you for all of your support.”

“Thank you for your support,” Ann Hampton told Bowers.

“Thank you for what you’re doing to help promote Operation Dragonfly, making everything kind of fall into place,” Dale Hampton told Bowers. “It’s wonderful. It’s a group effort. Somebody had to spearhead it all, but, with the cooperation from the County and the City, it’s just marvelous.

“Thank you for allowing them to do what they’re doing,” said Bowers. “This project really will solidify that cost and remind us that freedom isn’t free.

“Thank you,” Dale Hampton told him. “We appreciate that. We appreciate it.”

Betty Garrison noted that Pickens County Council unanimously approved the Operation Dragonfly project, which will be on County property at the library.

“It’s about remembering why we do what we do,” said Bowers.

“Being the parents of an only child to die the way she did, it’s tough,” said Dale Hampton. “Your children aren’t supposed to die before you do. The circumstances are tough. But things like this make us realize that she’s never going to be forgotten. And the way that people have surrounded us with their love and beautiful comments and allow things to be done in her honor, there are no words, absolutely no words, except thank you.”

Betty Garrison asked Bowers to express their thanks to his fellow Council members. “We’ll make them proud,” she said.

Photos in the slideshow below by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Chris Bowers and Betty Garrison meet with Ann and Dale Hampton immediately following the opening ceremony for the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Golf Tournament. 

The Christian View magazine spoke with both Karla Kelley and Tommy Chastain, who organized the tournament to fundraise for Operation Dragonfly.

“Tommy Chastain and I were ‘co-conspirators’ in this,” said Kelley. 

Chastain said that he got involved after purchasing a brick for the Memorial Walk for his father, Charles Chastain, who is a Vietnam veteran. “He has stage four prostate cancer, because of Agent Orange,” Chastain said. “I gave him the brick for Christmas, and you would have thought I gave him all of the gold in heaven. And it touched me so much that I decided I wanted to get involved. I want this project completed before my Dad passes away. He’s proud. That’s why I got involved. This has been a blast. We’ve got a good team. We have like-minded people with different talents.”

“It came together so good,” said Kelley, who serves on the Pickens County School Board, representing District 6 in Easley, and got involved after learning about Kimberly Hampton’s story. Kelley contacted Jim Garrison and asked how she could help with fundraising for this good cause. “I’m saying I’m doing it for my grandkids I don’t have yet,” she said, “but future students, future grandkids, I want a place where they can go and say, ‘This is what a hero looks like.’

“It just so happened we contacted him both about the same time, and really didn’t know each other,” she said.

“Our first meeting was January 7 of this year,” said Chastain, who had, at that time, asked Garrison if he had done any events to raise money. “I said, ‘What about a golf tournament?’” Chastain recalled. “Karla said, ‘Oh, great, I’ve organized golf tournaments.’

“I thought the average golf tournament would bring in about $15,000, by the time you clear expenses,” said Chastain. “Today, we’re projecting over $50,000. It’s been three months of work, and great sponsors.”

“Great sponsors,” Kelley agreed. “We cannot mention us without mentioning Consolidated Pipe, Cintas, and BP Oil, our three sponsors, and Ken Porter (Fort Hill Natural Gas). We have volunteers out today from Fort Hill Natural Gas, and Easley High School’s NJROTC, Easley High School Student Council, and Easley High School’s Honor Society, and, of course, Dr. Adams from First Baptist. So, they have all come together to do this. It’s been a huge, huge effort.”

“We’ve worked really hard, but are also a lot of people who have worked really hard, and a lot of money given from the heart,” said Chastain.
“It’s about honoring her memory,” said Kelley.

Chastain also commended the golfers who participated in the tournament. “I was out walking around, telling all of the golfers, ‘Y’all, be patient, because there are a lot of players,’ and they were like, ‘We’re here for the cause.’ That’s great.”

Bricks are still available for purchase for the Memorial Walk. Contact Jim Garrison through the Operation Dragonfly Facebook page or by mail at PO Box 974, Easley, SC  29641. Donate to Upstate Warrior Solution at PO Box 27232, Greenville, SC  29617.

The amount raised from the tournament totaled more than $60,000, including a $10,000 donation from Mr. and Mrs. Jim Weeks from their son, Jamie Weeks. The three major corporate sponsors were Consolidated Pipe and Supply Company, BP Energy, and Cintas Greenville. Hampton Inn of Easley was the host hotel. The silent auction was organized by Sumur-Rae Phillips of Steel Toe Staffing in Easley (owned by Tommy Keef), which was also a hole sponsor and had a team participating in the tournament. 

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Ann Hampton with a model replica of the Kiowa Warrior helicopter that her daughter, Kimberly, flew.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Betty Garrison, Dale Hampton, and Chris Bowers with a model replica of the Kiowa Warrior helicopter that Captain Kimberly Hampton flew.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine

Tommy Chastain, Karla Kelley, and Jim Garrison with a model replica of the Kiowa Warrior helicopter that Captain Kimberly Hampton flew.