Community honors fallen Easley veteran with helicopter delivery to memorial


EASLEY, S.C. (WSPA) – The Easley and Pickens community is coming together to honor a fallen hero and Easley native, Captain Kimberly Hampton, with a memorial park containing a helicopter donated by the military.

The helicopter will be delivered to the park Thursday morning, between 8:30 a.m and 9:30 a.m.

Hampton was killed in Iraq in 2004 at age 27 and was the first female American military pilot to die in combat in history.

Itโ€™s taken five years for the organization Operation Dragonfly to arrange for a replica of the exact helicopter she flew to be brought here permanently to her memorial, which sits outside the Pickens County Hampton Memorial Library, named in honor of Hampton and her passion for education.

Lockheed Martin painted the helicopter, a Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, for free, using donated paints, with her call sign โ€œDark Horse 6โ€ and the logo of the 17th calvary. 

Hampton was an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior pilot who commanded Delta Troop, serving in Iraq for the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment when her aircraft was shot down over Fallujah on Jan. 2, 2004.

The helicopter replica will be installed at a 17 degree angle to honor the 17th Cavalry.

It will leave Lockheed Martin at 7:45 a.m. Thursday. Organizers plan to deliver it to the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Park at 8:45 a.m., escorted by the SC Highway Patrol, the Pickens County Sheriffโ€™s Department and the Easley Police Department. 

Operation Dragonfly is asking citizens and businesses to honor Hampton by waving flags or saluting the helicopter as it goes by.

The route the helicopter is taking is from Hwy 25 to Interstate 85; South on I-85 to Highway 153;  Hwy 153 toward Easley to Highway 123; Hwy 123 toward Clemson to SC 93; SC 93 toward downtown Easley to Burns Road. It will then turn left at Burns Road to Biltmore Road and continue to the construction site of the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Park.  

Over the next several weeks, the Captain Kimberly Hampton Memorial Park will also have eight benches, landscaping, a dragonfly sculpture and a kiosk with five to six panels describing Hamptonโ€™s life.

Several businesses and members of the community have donated time and finances to make the part a reality.

Bruce Royal, of Royal Engineering in Greenville donated all the structural engineering of the plans that Jim Garrison, leader of Operation Dragonfly, designed. 

Galvan Industries, a veteran owned company from North Carolina donated all of the galvanizing for the steel structural supports that will support the helicopter. 

Kyle Gillespie of Gillespie Marble on Laurens Road donated all the layout work and sandblasting of the stone slab for the entrance sign to the park.  

Jamie Weeks, owner of Orange Theory in Greenville, donated $10,000 for the construction of the park. 

Organizers are hoping to complete construction and hold a dedication in late January or early February of 2020.

You can read more about Captain Kimberly Hampton on a special memorial page created by the Military Times.

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