- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

FORT BRAGG, N.C. | About 9,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division took part in an annual four-mile run to kick off All American Week, a series of events honoring the troops.

Each year, thousands of veterans return to Fort Bragg to participate in the race, which was part of Fayetteville’s “31 Days of Glory,” a monthlong celebration honoring the work of troops and the sacrifices of their families.

During the run, the weather was dismal with light rain, but the soldiers’ morale was high.

Maj. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division who led the run, told the soldiers before the event that while they are running, the many men and women of the division deployed overseas are doing the nation’s work.

After the run, he grabbed a microphone and shouted “Hoo-ah!” and “All the way!” to the soldiers, giving them high-fives as they crossed the finish line.

The following day, Gen. Scaparrotti boarded a plane to Afghanistan with division headquarters to join his paratroopers.

The Combat Aviation Brigade and the division headquarters are in the middle of a deployment to Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade Combat team will be joining them later this year.

“There’s no doubt that this has been tough,” Gen. Scaparrotti said about the repeated deployments of the division’s soldiers. “[But] they know why they’re fighting, and they’re ready to go.”

Later that day, Gen. Scaparrotti made opening remarks at an annual memorial ceremony at Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum .

“The recognition and memorial go to those soldiers who gave the last full measure of devotion,” he said.

Paratroopers who died fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq were honored at the ceremony held outside the division museum on the museum grounds. Names of the 178 soldiers who died from the 82nd Airborne Division were read aloud during the memorial.

Thirty families of fallen soldiers who were Gold Star recipients attended the ceremony. Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, the commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps addressed the crowd. Spouses, parents, and children of the soldiers then lined up, carrying yellow roses that were laid at the base of the stone memorial.

“This nation owes you a debt that it can never repay and that is why we are here today,” said Gen. Austin to the Gold Star families in reference to the service of their loved one.

One of those honored in the ceremony was Capt. Kimberly Hampton, the commander of Delta Troop, First Squadron, 17th Cavalry. She was a Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot whose call sign in Iraq was “Dark Horse Six” but was known by friends as “Kimbo.”

Capt. Hampton was shot down in Fallujah on Jan. 2, 2004. Gen. Austin thanked her mother, Ann Hampton, for her daughter’s sacrifice. Before her tour in Iraq, Capt. Hampton had served in both Korea and Afghanistan.

“It came as quite a shock to the entire unit when we lost Capt. Hampton. She was a great commander and a great cavalry pilot. She is still greatly missed and I’m glad that she was honored at All American Week,” said Jennifer L. Boardman, a former cavalry officer who served in Iraq with Capt. Hampton.

“[We extend our] thanks to the remarkable family members that continue to stand by our side as we defend our freedom, and our way of life. Our nation owes to our husbands and wives, and sons and daughters a great debt of gratitude for their immense sacrifices,” Gen. Austin said.

The ceremony included songs from the division chorus, followed by a three-round volley of gunfire and taps. A symbolic wreath of red, white and blue flowers in the shape of the division’s well-known double-A patch was placed outside the museum.

• Kelly Twedell is a writer in Fayetteville, N.C. Her husband is stationed at Fort Bragg.

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