WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
For the Hampton family, being drafted into military service was never an option. Of the 13 Hampton children hailing from Independence, Kentucky, all seven brothers voluntarily served in the armed forces for a combined total of more than 125 years.
“We each entered the service as soon as we were able,” says David Hamilton, now retired. “Once your 17th birthday came around, you hit up mom for that signature. It’s just the way it was in our house.”
The two eldest brothers, Wade Hampton and Robert “Bob” Hampton enlisted in the Air Force together in 1951. Wade waited for his brother to become old enough to sign up so they could go through basic military training at the same time, but the brothers were subsequently separated by overseas orders. Wade ultimately served four years, while Bob completed 20 years of service, including multiple tours in both Korea and Vietnam.
Harvey Hampton joined the Army in 1952 and was wounded the following year in the fatal battle on Pork Chop Hill in Korea. He remained on active duty status in the Army for two more years until discharge.
One week after his birthday in 1955, 17-year-old James “Jim” Hampton joined the Air Force and attended basic military training at the now-closed Sampson Air Force Base, New York. He was discharged from active duty in 1959.
Barry Hampton served in the Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Air Force Reserve in the years spanning the early 1960s to mid-1990s.
David Hampton enlisted in the Army in 1967, serving three years on active duty.
The youngest of all the brothers, Charles “Charlie” Hampton joined the Army in 1970, completing seven years in Germany and Hawaii before leaving the service.
“Growing up, my big brothers were often away, stationed all over the globe,” Charlie says. “It was the family tradition.”
Despite closing the chapter on their active-duty service, the youngest brothers of the bunch were not quite ready to hang up their hats.
The 445th Airlift Wing did not exist until the 1990s, and the 87th Aerial Port Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was in its infancy in the 1970s.
“I came in the first year the 87th Aerial Port Squadron started -- 1977,” David recalls. “We were part of a tactical fighter group at that point and the mission was much different than it is now.”
Harvey and Jim, both in their 60s and nearly charter members, joined the squadron in 1977. Within a few years, Barry, David and Charlie followed suit. In all, five of the veteran brothers returned to the military to serve as Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 87th APS, and several achieved retirement.
By the time the brothers enlisted in the Air Force Reserve, most of them had teenaged children of their own. In his father’s footsteps, James “Jimmy” Hampton, son of Jim, served in the 87th APS from 1978 to 1984.
Today, the Hampton family legacy is still unfolding.
Tech. Sgt. Robert “Rob” Hampton, son of Charlie, joined the 87th APS in 2004 at age 23 and still serves today.
“I was honored to serve four years with my dad before he retired in 2008,” Rob says. “Not many people can say that.”
Charlie, for one, cannot even speak about his son’s service without becoming visibly emotional.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of serving side-by-side with my son,” Charlie shares. “There’s nothing like it.”
Charlie also co-founded the 87th Aerial Port Squadron Association in 2009, with the goal of providing ongoing camaraderie, support, and connection for current and former members of the squadron. As of publication date, 149 individuals are members of the association and participate in retirement ceremonies, 445th AW picnics, squadron holiday parties, plus an annual reunion.
Cumulatively, the Hampton family has dedicated nearly 75 years of uniformed service exclusively to the 87th Aerial Port Squadron so far, and they are quick to tell you that their story is not over just yet.
“People jokingly ask me if my son is joining,” Rob says, noting that his son is only nine years old. Rob glances to his father.
“He’s on my list,” adds Charlie. “I’m already talking to him about it!”