By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
This year’s gathering of the North Texas Marine Corps Birthday Association has the scheduled highlight of a unique keynote address.
Set for 6 p.m. Saturday at VFW Post 1922 on North Grand Avenue and open to the public, the “reunion ball” ceremony serves as the area’s annual, official birthday celebration of the Marine Corps, complete with color guard, live music and catered dinner. Roughly 120 seats are reserved for both veterans and civilians and the Marine Corps is tributed with a decorated cake.
But the post-dinner speech will introduce the audience to Shelby Hampton — a highly decorated veteran, now deceased — by way of memories from his son.
“I have not spoken about this in public, ever,” David Hampton said Tuesday. “It’s a very emotional thing for me.”
Hampton, a local businessman, said he plans to read from a 40-page manuscript detailing some of his late father’s Korean War exploits, most of them showing the rigors felt by a 21-year-old who had “slipped through the cracks” into combat.
“He’s one the very few Marines who went to Korea without any training whatsoever,” Hampton said Tuesday.
The late Hampton, his son said, was a child of the Great Depression, one of five siblings, all born inside a small house. The younger brother of soldiers, Shelby Hampton became a Marine Corps Reserves cadet during his teens but the experience didn’t provide much formal guidance with weapons or fighting. In late 1950, he was mistakenly drafted and ordered to ship to Japan and had little success in clearing up the errors that led him there.
During the 12-day ride overseas, Shelby Hampton received quick lessons on how to fire an M-1 carbine rifle before a headlong rush into the noted Battle of Inchon that followed the amphibious American landing.
His own introduction to the conflict was 14 days of firefights — a prolonged strain to stop wave after wave of Chinese invaders.
“One of the bloodiest battles in American history,” David Hampton said. “There were 100,000 Chinese killed and 7,000 Americans killed. My father was shot in the face and injured. And had two Purple Hearts from being shot.”
Despite the acclaim, David Hampton said, his father never discussed his unexpected wartime service or details of his experience until much later in life.
“It’s unbelievable what they went through at 18, 20 years old,” he said Tuesday.
Ceremony organizer Bob Brown said the story of Shelby Hampton should be one of the event’s more compelling features. And after getting a look at the manuscript, he said Tuesday, he was adamant about persuading David Hampton to share his father’s experience of learning a life-threatening job while on the job.
“By his father speaking in this book and telling his story, he’s not bragging about how ‘I killed this guy or killed that guy,’” Brown said. “What got me was, he went in there and did it ... without knowing how to do it.”
Tickets to the event are $20 and this includes dinner, an open bar and music. Call (940) 612-1375 or (940) 736-7919.
6 p.m. — Guests arrive.
7 p.m. — Call to order by Bob Brown; singing of the Marine Corp Hymn; colors by the Mag41 NASJRB Marine Corps Color Guard; lighting of remembrance; messages by Mike Allison and Jeff Gerken; introductions and prayer by Mike Compton.
8 p.m. — Dinner, catered by Sarah’s On the Square.
8:30 p.m. — History discussion and cake-cutting ceremony by Mike Allison; address by David Hampton, with closing remarks by Bob Brown.
9 p.m. to midnight — Live music by the Dan Dennis Band.