Lt. Colonel Rick Simmons first contacted Captain Kimberly Hampton by email on November 15, 2002 at 8:25 am:
“Are you Kimberly Nicole Hampton? My name is Rick Simmons from Pickens SC and I have been asked to look you up here in Afghanistan by your mother Ann.”
From this brief email introduction, a strong and lasting friendship quickly formed. Capt. Hampton, from Easley, and Lt. Col. Simmons were both stationed in the combat zone at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where they were assigned to Coalition Joint Task Force 180 for Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout the next year, the two emailed frequently and met whenever possible. Even when home on leave, contact was maintained through email and care packages. The friendship even extended to both families, with Lt. Col. Simmons staying in close contact with Capt. Hampton’s parents and her parents contacting his wife, Marie, who lived in Pickens.
In September 2003, Capt. Hampton was deployed to Iraq while Lt. Col. Simmons remained in Afghanistan; however the friendship continued through email and packages. On December 24, 2003, she sent an email thanking him, home on leave, for the Christmas package he sent her, stating that “it’s tough being away from home during the holidays, but your thoughtfulness sure has made home feel a little closer.”
This would be the last email that Lt. Col. Simmons ever received from Capt. Hampton. On January 2, 2004, she was killed in combat when her helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, Iraq.
In early 2006, Lt. Col. Simmons was deployed to Iraq. Since Capt. Hampton’s death, he has remained close with her family, and they are close with his; while he is stationed in Iraq, the Hamptons stay in contact with his wife. However, though time goes on, his close friend is never far from his mind. In an email to her family just before he was deployed, he notes that “I keep a copy of those coordinates [where Kimberly was killed] in my wallet and I have a military map of Fallujah with me, so if I can get by there, I will…If God allows, Kimberly will be watching over me while I am there. I have on her bracelet now as I type and it will be on me my entire time there in Iraq.”