Middle East veterans will have place to reflect in Dover

DOVER — On Veterans Day, the members of Kent County Chapter 850 of the Vietnam Veterans of America will welcome another generation to their memorial park.

A Middle East Conflicts Memorial will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover.

From the Editor logo copy copy“They have definitely lived up to their motto of ‘never again will one generation leave another behind,’ ” said John Hampton. “I get choked up thinking about those guys. They’ve done an incredible job.”

Mr. Hampton, leader of the Middle East memorial committee, said Joe Startt, Chapter 850 president, and Ken Bodine, chair of the site committee, and others from the organization “pulled us under their wing big time.”

The memorial is for everyone who served in that part of the world since the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran. Mr. Hampton said it was important to recognize it goes beyond just Iraq and Afghanistan.

The monument will have a sand-colored base, representing the desert of the Middle East. Above it, tablets will appear like an open book on a blood-red ledge that has the inscription, “All gave some, some gave all.”

On one side, a flag is at half staff with a saluting soldier. On the other, folded hands are next to a prayer and a map of the Middle East.

“We want it to be a symbol for everybody that served,” said Mr. Hampton.

Names of Kent Countians who died in service will be read at events.

Among those remembered will be U.S. Army Warrant Officer Sean Mullen who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

His parents Bill and Miriam Mullen, of Dover, will join Mr. Hampton in placing a wreath on Wednesday.

“The Middle East memorial represents 1979 to present because it’s a perpetuating war,” he said. “It doesn’t really have a place or a date on it because threats are so commonplace now. Modern warfare doesn’t look like it did in Vietnam or World War II.”

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Mr. Hampton retired from the U.S. Air Force as a tech sergeant in 2011. He left his home in Baltimore a week after his high school graduation for basic training and in 1995 was first assigned to Dover Air Force Base where he spent the majority of his military career. Among his deployments were

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John Hampton

humanitarian missions to Guatemala and Honduras.

“When I got into the military, I didn’t even know what a patriot was,” he said. “You learn to appreciate the freedoms we have, especially when you go overseas and you see what real poverty is and lack of freedom is. It’s something else, it’s humbling.”

Mr. Hampton said his time in Dover included a stint where he transported family members out to the flight line for dignified transfer ceremonies.

“You know the saying, ‘But for the grace of God that could have been me.’ I thought about that every single time I did it,” Mr. Hampton said.

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Kent County Chapter 850 reports this will be the last war memorial in the park,

For Mr. Hampton, it has been rewarding to participate in the project.

“This is by veterans, for veterans,” he said. “The whole park — by veterans, for veterans. The committee that came up with the idea and the fundraising, it was all under the sweat and labor of the veterans.”

The centerpiece of the park, located next to the Kent County administrative complex, is the Vietnam memorial that stands before a Huey helicopter.

“It’s a sobering place,” said Mr. Hampton. “It’s a well-done and well-thought-out park. I like the way you can walk all the way around it and how it represents the full circle.”

Thinking years ahead, he can picture himself at the site.

“It’s awesome to be part of history,” he said. “I’ll be able show my grandkids years from now. I don’t have any yet, but it’s kind of cool.”

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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