Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton wouldn’t take back a minute of her seven years of service in the U.S. Air Force.
After all, she proudly noted, it made her successful 19-year career in the corrugated packaging industry and, for the past few months, public service possible.
Hampton was the featured speaker at an annual luncheon honoring women veterans at Eastern Kentucky University, which counts approximately 200 female veterans among its 1,500-plus military affiliated students and dependents and has earned national recognition for all it does to help veterans reach their educational goals.
A product of a single-parent household in inner-city Detroit, Hampton went on to earn a degree in industrial engineering from Wayne State University. But she forsook a safe career in the auto industry for the military.
“I wanted to do something a little more important than build cars,” she recalled.
Away from home for the first time, she soon found herself at Kelly Air Force Base, almost 1,500 miles away in sweltering San Antonio, Texas, where she promptly flunked her first physical fitness test. But Hampton persevered and went on to successfully serve the USAF as a computer systems officer, writing code and testing software. Her service included an eight-month tour of duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.
“The women I served with were remarkable,” Hampton said. “We were just there doing our jobs. No one questioned if we should be there. No one questioned if we were capable.”
Hampton said her seven years in the Air Force allowed her to develop skills and traits she has employed throughout her career, citing:
· management and people skills
· an undivided focus on mission
· the confidence to speak up as warranted
Regarding the latter, “there are times you just have to say something,” Hampton said. “You can’t let things go unanswered that need to be answered. Sometimes the somebody to do something is you. I learned that in the military. I did not want to run for public office, but I felt called to do so.”
In 2015, Hampton was inducted into the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame in recognition of her military and community service.
Remarks by Dr. Laurie Carter, executive vice president and University counsel at EKU, concluded the event.
“Women veterans are an important part of military history,” Carter said, “and it’s important to pause every now and then to say thank you.”
Bechtel Parsons co-sponsored the luncheon.
For more information, visit EKU Military and Veterans Affairs at va.eku.edu.