This week's veteran spotlight focuses on a man that worked for his country, his fellow soldiers and especially his family during his time in the military. He gave his life in conflict, but his example lives on as a testament to his character.
James Vernon Hamilton, born September 13 of 1940, found meaning in hard work and dedication thanks to his upbringing.
One of five sons, he spent his childhood on a farm, which eventually gave him the focus he needed for the military years later.
He met his wife, Virginia Hamilton, and joined the military in 1960 and completed his basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The two lived in Leesville, where Hamilton rose from the 2nd to 1st Infantry Division before being stationed in Vietnam.
While serving in the Vietnam conflict, Hamilton was killed in action, the official report deeming it a death by misadventure.
According to his son, Kip Hamilton, the death was most likely by cause of friendly fire via mortars, in which case Hamilton had found himself accidentally setting one off and killing him. He had just been accepted for officer candidate school before his death.
“He was a good man, a hard working man,” Virginia Hamilton, currently living in Many, Louisiana, said. “He stayed in the military for about seven years, and in that time he devoted a lot to it. He cared very deeply for his work and his time with his fellow soldiers.”
Kelly Gerard, Hamilton’s daughter, spoke at length about her father, admitting that she didn’t know too much about him based on her age when he was killed in action.
“My brother (Kip) and I were two years old when he died, so what I really know about him was told to me by extended family, who absolutely loved him,” Gerard said. “I know the military was definitely his career, and he was a hard worker that devoted a lot of time to it and his family.
“There’s three things I know about him, he loved family, he loved his work and he loved fast cars,” Gerard explains further. “It’s probably a testament to how he grew up, but he really tried to do so much for everyone around him, as well as himself. He was just a very diligent sort of person.”
James’ oldest son, Travis James Hamilton, followed in his father’s footsteps.
Born in 1961, Travis attended and graduated from Leesville High School, joining the National Guard shortly after.
Unfortunately, in 1979, Travis died in duty. A mosquito bite had left him terribly ill, and he died not long after.
“It was something I thought about a lot,” Kip Hamilton said. “My father and my older brother were both in the Army and they had died on duty. I really took that to heart and it changed my life and my perspective.”
Hamilton joined the Marine Corps out of Shreveport in his youth, where he spent eight years in service.
He has since retired from service, working as an IT Administrator at the Duvall County Public School system in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Like my sister said, he was just someone that really was motivated to do all that he could do. My brother as well, and so I like to look back on that. I took in everything my extended family told me about my father, and it really gave me a change in life.” Hamilton said.
James Vernon Hamilton and his time in the military was brought to the attention of the Leesville Daily Leader by Roy Thompson, Hamilton’s cousin and a fellow veteran.
Thompson himself was drafted into the military in 1967, finishing his basic training at Fort Polk just as Hamilton was killed in combat in Vietnam.
He spent 24 years in the military, retiring in 1991.
“I just want people to know about the kind of man he was,” Thompson said. “He devoted his life to the Army and his family, and that’s something we can all look up to.”