At 11:00 am on November 11, 1918, the guns of war fell silent in Europe. For almost four years, soldiers along entrenched lines fought to a near stalemate. In part because of technology that was advanced beyond military tactics of the day, World War I resulted in a staggering 38 million military and civilian casualties. That number includes 11 million military and 7 million civilian deaths. The carnage was such that when the Armistice of Compiègne went into effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” the event was marked as a day of observance around the world. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill on May 26, 1954 that expanded Armistice Day to include all veterans. The national holiday became known as Veterans Day. It is a day set aside to honor all who have served in the armed forces.
What does it mean to “honor” those who have served? Parades? Ceremonies? Statues and monuments? Of course, all those things are ways we show honor. Yet for some, showing honor has a more practical meaning.
Jeramiah Hampton is the North Carolina Division of Veteran Affairs service officer for Alleghany County. He is responsible for assisting the approximately 1000+ Alleghany County veterans and their families with their military service benefits.
Many locals remember Jeramiah from his high school days. He excelled in football, baseball and wrestling. In his junior year he finished third in the state finals as a wrestler. The next year, he moved toward the state finals ranked number one in the state in the 171 pound class. He was talking with Appalachian State University (ASU) about wrestling in college. His future seemed clear and certain.
Then two days before the state finals began, he injured his knee in practice and ended his high school wrestling career. A long recovery was in store. The coach from ASU offered encouragement and told Jeramiah to still consider college wrestling when his knee was healed.
So, Jeramiah plotted a new course. He enrolled at Surry Community College with the thought of knocking out his general education requirements before heading to ASU. But, he found that college life wasn’t for him and after that first year he was considering other options.
Both of his grandfathers served in the military. Jeramiah recalled visits with the Marine recruiter when he was in high school. So, in July of 2008, he enlisted in the Marine Corp’s delayed entry program. He signed an open contract which meant he could be assigned wherever he was needed. For Jeramiah, he hoped that meant an infantry assignment.
In December of 2008 he arrived in boot camp at Parris Island, SC. Still an athlete, the physical training was tough but bearable. He describes the most difficult challenge as dealing with the mental and emotional tricks played by the drill instructors.
Afterwards, Jeramiah was assigned to nuclear and biological chemical defense. This led him back to the very place he joined the Marines to avoid – the classroom. He was assigned to 2nd Marine Headquarters in Camp Lejeune, NC. In June of 2010 he was meritoriously promoted and reassigned to the 3rd Battalion 9th Marines. Jeramiah and the 3/9 were deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
While in Afghanistan, Jeramiah served as the battalion watch chief. As watch chief, he was responsible for tracking patrols, events, and threats. He split his time between administrative duties and going out on patrol.
Jeramiah returned to North Carolina and was assigned to Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry. There he served as a combat marksmanship coach to new Marines.
After his four year enlistment, Jeramiah returned to Alleghany County. He took a job with the Alleghany Wellness Center and became a certified trainer in 2012. He enrolled at Wilkes Community College (WCC) and balanced a full-time class load with his new job duties. Formerly a marginal student, Jeramiah graduated from WCC in 2014 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA). He is currently enrolled at Concordia University – St. Paul and is majoring in exercise science. He is set to graduate in December 2015 and is anticipating another 4.0 GPA. He continues to work as a trainer and conducts martial arts classes.
Some would define Jeramiah Hampton as an overachiever. And that is exactly what the veterans of our community need as they wade through a river of bureaucracy. They deserve someone who speaks their language and who can talk straight with them.
We sometimes ascribe superhuman traits to those who have served in the military. And when we hear accounts of their deeds it is natural to view them as heroes. While we should never downplay or dismiss those courageous acts and deeds, maybe we should focus more on who these veterans are. They are sons and daughters; husbands and wives; and fathers and mothers. They were farmers, mill workers, and students. They were from big cities and small towns. They were high school athletes. They are truly representative of our communities. We have 1000 veterans spread across Alleghany County. This year at the “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” reach out to one of these individuals and offer a heart-felt thank you.
For information on military service benefits contact Jeramiah Hampton at 336-372-4850. Or stop by his office at 90 South Main Street, Sparta, NC from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.