As a specialist scout sniper for the United States Army stationed in Afghanistan, the alarm clock for 22-year-old Adam Hamilton was oftentimes as frightening and chilling as anyone could imagine.
Sounds from artillery gunshots riddled buildings around him would jar him awake.
And so would begin his day.
To protect and serve his country in the same way he had developed a reputation to protect and serve all of his family and friends while growing up in Kent.
It was simply part of his personality and how he lived his life.
There were times it resulted in rightful discipline, but no line was ever crossed and Adam’s father Scott Hamilton recalls stories that were all indicators of Adam’s internal drive to protect, but he also admits that it was not until later that he completely saw it that way because he was in “parent mode” at the time.
“I didn’t understand it then and it was not until later that I truly understood,” Scott Hamilton said. “He loved the people around him so much that he would do anything to protect them. At any consequence or price.”
On May 28, 2011, the measurement of that statement was stamped when Adam Hamilton was killed from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device (IED) during a night mission of Enduring Operation Freedom in Haji Ruf, Afghanistan.
It has been 11 years, but Adam’s legacy has been frozen in time.
His impact on those that knew him is forever and sitting in the home office inside the Hamilton’s home in Kent, tears rolled down Scott’s cheek as he talked about his son. Each one seemed to hold another story.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ I just tell them, you don’t see me when I am alone. I still miss my son. I miss him every single day. We all do.”
The idea for the Adam Hamilton Foundation originated from messages Adam would send home to family members while he was in Afghanistan.
Amidst all of the daily chaos, Hamilton was constantly on the lookout for opportunities to save children in trouble.
“When Adam died and gave the ultimate sacrifice, it forced me to ask myself, ‘What am I doing with my life,’?” Scott Hamilton said. “I had been fortunate to become a successful businessman, had a great family, plenty of friends around me, but Adam’s death forced me to think about more. We knew we had to do more, and we knew we wanted to help children.”
The Adam Hamilton Foundation was formed and has since donated more than $750,000 in his name.
The hallmark is the Adam S. Hamilton Memorial and Athletic Scholarship, which is awarded annually to one graduating boy and one graduating girl — $10,000 each — who have shown leadership in the classroom, on the playing fields and in the community, while also maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average and earning a varsity letter in two sports.
“The scholarship is always very special for us,” said Scott Hamilton, who also said that the scholarship is now self-funded for life. “Once the scholarship winners are determined, we arrange to make the announcement in person at the student’s home. That is a really special night for us. We are proud to do it, and we are always so excited for the students that have earned it, but we always end up in the car on the ride back home with tears in our eyes.”
The foundation, which fundraises through its popular crossfit and 5k event called “The Hammy” and through private donations, has also donated toward countless projects throughout Kent Roosevelt High School and Kent State University.
The foundation led funding to renovate Kent Roosevelt’s weight room, which was unveiled as the Spc. Adam S. Hamilton Fitness Center on Feb. 9, 2015, and features a mural of Adam along the wall.
“That picture of Adam, that smile on his face is captivating,” Scott Hamilton said. “There have been times I have talked to kids there, and I tell them, that picture on the wall, that is your motivation. If that picture does not motivate you to give more, I am not sure what will. When they are in a difficult moment, our soldiers don’t get a break, they don’t get a timeout, they don’t get an extra water break. They have to find a way. The message for our athletes is that they should give 100 percent on every play or else they are cutting themselves short.”
The foundation’s newest mission is to help rebuild the Kent Youth Football organization.
“When I was hired as coach at Kent Roosevelt in 2019, our youth numbers were in the mid-30’s,” Rough Riders football head coach Alan Vanderink said. “Obviously, we lost the 202 season to COVID, but in 2021 we were able to rebuild our number to 80 and this year we are back up to 110. There has been a lot of help from a lot of different people and groups, but the Hamilton family has been a tremendous asset for us. They are helping with new equipment, new uniforms and more.”
When Adam graduated boot camp, where he was recognized as one of the top marksman in his class, a ceremony allowed each member to stop at the microphone, state their name and where they were from.
“ADAM HAMILTON. KENT, OHIO.”
Scott Hamilton remembers it admiringly.
“He shouted it. It was loud. It was like you could feel it in him,” he said. “Adam was a good athlete and a good kid. He had chances to play for private schools in high school, but he always wanted to stay where he was. He was home. He was a Kent Roosevelt kid, and he knew it.”
Adam Hamilton — whose family includes parents Scott and Connie Hamilton and Nancy Krestan, along with brothers Brandon Hamilton and Nick Krestan and sisters Shawney and Taya Hamilton — was a three-sport star for the Rough Riders.
His accomplishments seem like those achieved by an entire program over the course of a decade.
In ice hockey, he shares the school record, fittingly with his brother Nick Krestan, for career goals scored at 134. Hamilton also totaled 69 career assists and 203 career points. Just in Hamilton’s 2006-07 senior season he scored 47 goals and had 26 assists for 73 total points, while also collecting 16 power-play goals and 5 short-handed goals.
In lacrosse, Hamilton was an All-American finished his career with 100 goals, 104 assists and 204 points in 56 total games. Ohio’s Player of the Year is now awarded as the Adam S. Hamilton Award.
In football, Hamilton was an All-Portage Trail Conference tight end and also played outside linebacker.
Fit to be a captain across either of his three sports, Hamilton would consistently decline the offer from his coaches.
“Adam’s thing was that he wanted to lead by example. He didn’t need the letter “C” on his jersey to be a captain,” Scott Hamilton said. “He respected his coaches for seeing him that way, but he simply wanted to serve his team.”
Outside of athletics, Hamilton’s personality was vibrant.
“He was the most outgoing, fun loving and hard driven,” Scott Hamilton said. “He could walk into a room, leave an hour later and everyone in that room would know who he is. Everyone wanted to be Adam’s friend, because he made everyone feel good. He could capture a room with his charisma.”
Charm that Scott remembers his son portraying at 12 years old, shortly after the tragedy of 9-11, when he said, “Dad, I am going to be in the Army.”
That Halloween, Adam dressed in an Army fatigues costume.
After his death on May 28, 2011, Adam Hamilton was flown by a DC-10 Air Tanker to Dover, Delaware.
“That was and still is the most sorrow time of my entire life,” Scott Hamilton said. “The plane flew three soldiers home that day. Adam and two others. I remember standing there, looking at this incredibly massive plane and all of the military personnel there, and I remember thinking, ‘Son, you deserve all of this attention’.”
It is the merit that the Hamilton family uses to keep Adam’s legacy moving forward.
“Adam deserves this,” Scott said. “What he did, what he sacrificed, that needs to be recognized. Less than 10 percent of those that enter the Army see action and Adam chose a role that the top 1% see action. He is a true hero and the world needs to know that.”
Adam Hamilton was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
And, posthumously, Adam Hamilton continues to impact people from his hometown community just as he did when he could flash his glowing smile in their direction.
He gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but his heart still beats through the city of Kent.
As loudly as he shouted into the microphone during his boot-camp graduation ceremony.
“ADAM HAMILTON. KENT, OHIO.”
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