A Lesson in Customer Service from Hampton Inn

Recently my family and I went on a trip to Seattle. We love to travel and by car as much as possible, because we love to experience the little things all across the U.S., not just the airports, which are mostly just all the same. During our travels, we often have 1-4 of the kids with us. On this recent Seattle trip, we only had the two oldest boys.

Because we’re usually traveling with the kids, we’re choosy about our hotels, not so much for price and convenience, but for certain specific amenities like breakfast and a pool. Our go-to joint was most often the Residence Inn, but recently we’ve been hitting up the Hampton Inns. Hampton has gone through a major remodel of both the business and the physical properties that works very well for us. The rooms are nice and clean, the staff are (usually) really nice, and the breakfast is pretty awesome, since they almost always have hot food like bacon and eggs and not just waffles and fruit. Even better, Hampton Inns are now offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Not only that, but many of our recent stays included unforeseen perks.

In Atlanta we were invited to a free BBQ dinner in the lobby.

In Seattle we were given goody bags with candy and snacks inside.

In Greensboro NC we were given free bottled waters.

Then there was Tacoma WA.

Despite a pretty awesome string of enjoyable stays in Hampton Inns, we eventually found a bad apple. I don’t even think it was the hotel so much as it was the employee on duty at the time. Unfortunately, customer service at the corporate level turned sour when I mentioned our issue.

Here’s the story.

Like many of you, I book 99.9% of my hotel stays online. As I’m a proud Hilton Honors member, I usually just book through that website instead of the plethora of other sites out there. I usually just go straight in and search for a Hampton Inn near where I’m staying.

We had just driven out of Mt. Rainier National Park and were looking for a place to stay in Tacoma WA. We found a string of hotels near the mall, some of which were even considerably cheaper than the Hampton Inn. I booked a room online, we found the hotel, and…then the trouble started.


When we walked in to get the keys to the room that I paid for through the Hilton website the receptionist said, “No, you can’t have that room” and proceeded to book us in a room with one bed instead of two at a higher rate. Two kids, remember? I’m way past the days I’m willing to share a bed with my two monsters. That’s a guaranteed sleepless night.

“What happened to our booking?”

“I don’t know, but you’re lucky to get the room I’m giving you.”

All this is said to us as we’re standing there staring at the 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed sign and wondering who peed in her Cheerios. We went ahead and took the booking and made beds for the kids on the floor. It was a clean hotel, so this wasn’t too bad. I figured I’d contact Hilton Honors later and see what was up.

There were several basic issues here…

  • The hotel refused to honor my online reservation.
  • The receptionist had a crappy attitude.
  • The hotel upsold me to a lesser room.

But let me go on record right now and tell you how customer service works. There are several things the receptionist could have done that would have fixed everything…

  • Show a better attitude.
  • Offer a small perk, like the goody bags full of snacks and candy that were sitting right there on the counter.
  • Apologize for the online screw-up and give me the new room at the rate I paid instead of the upsell.
  • But most of all, I reiterate the first idea…be nice.

I contacted Hilton to express my concerns and let them know what could’ve made things rights. I also expressed my concerns that it felt like I couldn’t trust the online booking. Despite repeated requests to get to a customer service supervisor, all I ever got was the bottom of the ladder person managing the e-mails and tweets that day.

Tweet 1

Tweet 2

Tweet 3

In addition to the Twitter messages, there was also a chain of e-mails regarding the issue. After reading them, you tell me if you can feel the love or if the whole things just seems like a “send the typical corporate response and get rid of this guy” kind of thing.

This is the first response following my e-mail asking for information on what happened with the online booking…

It is my understanding that the Tacoma-Mall, WA has been in contact with you and has adjusted your rate from $129.00 to $119.00 and e-mailed and updated folio.

Should you require further assistance please let us know. 

Hilton Worldwide Guest Assistance Specialist 

And another one…

Dear Dr. David W. Powers,

Thank you for your reply. My name is Mary.  It will be my pleasure to assist with the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall, WA. I would like to express my sincere apologies. Yes, you can trust all your reservations booked on our websites. The Hotel should have honored  the rate you had confirmed on your reservation. It is our goal, to provide only the highest level of customer service, for all of our guests, who choose to stay at one of our Hilton Worldwide hotels, and based on the details you provided in your message, we deeply regret that we have fallen short of that goal. Please be assured that we will be sharing your feedback with management to avoid recurrence.

After reviewing you file, I see 100% satisfaction Guarantee was offered in a form of a ” Be My Guest” for one night complimentary stay in a standard room at any Hampton Inn & Suites hotel of your choice and will be valid for “1” year from the date of issue. Please allow 5-7 business days for the certificate to be processed and mailed. 

Once again, we are terribly sorry for the challenges that you experienced at the hotel during your stay.

Should you have any additional questions relative to this matter, please reply to this email or call our office at 1-888-240-6152.

Best Regards,

Mary H., Specialist, Hilton Guest Assistance

And from me…

Would it be at all possible to get forwarded to a customer service supervisor? I’m not sure who I’ve been speaking to on the Hampton Inn Twitter account, but I’m getting a runaround and lots of typical scripted verbiage, and I would like to actually dialogue with someone higher.

Uh oh, Mary again…

Dear Dr. David W. Powers,

Thank you for contacting Hilton Guest Assistance. My name is Mary. It will be my pleasure to assist regarding the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall, WA.

After reviewing the file, I see you had been contacted by social media supervisor and were offered a “Be my guest” certificate to make amends for your experience.

We want you as our guest and are hopeful that you will afford us the opportunity to provide lodging services in the future.

Should you have any additional questions relative to this matter, please reply to this email or call our office at 1-888-240-6152.

Best Regards,

Mary H., Specialist, Hilton Guest Assistance

The end result is a bad stay, a receptionist ill equipped for the job, a policy of just tossing out free hotel stays for dissatisfaction, customer service reps who only want to cross off complaints instead of actually fixing them, and a serious problem that Hilton needs to get hold of. Otherwise, families like us may end up making our way to similar hotels like Residence Inn and the Holiday Inn Express.

Hilton, if you’re listening, I’ll repeat what would have made everything perfect for me…

  • An apology from the receptionist that night
  • An offer from the receptionist to bring in a roll up bed for my boys
  • A goody bag for each of the kids and a bottle of water for me and my wife
  • The rate I paid for if the room truly wasn’t available
  • Make me happy onsite and two things happen. I don’t complain and you don’t have to give me a free night.

And boom! Done!

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Roaming Again in Connecticut

I was invited back again to the Connecticut EMS Expo at the Mohegan Sun resort. I presented lectures ranging from Zombies and Infection Control all the way over to A Futurist Look at EMS. I had a great time at the expo and casino. I had the opportunity to see a few old friends again and also make some new ones, including the Nightwatch crew below. It’s nice seeing a beard and some tattoos on an EMS crew, especially Holly, who’s pretty cool (Even though you missed my zombie class Holly!).

Nightwatch-Holly-CT-EMSHere’s our view of the Thames River from the hotel room. You can’t beat waking up to this every morning.

20150529_125224 Once again we ate way too much. It seems like every eatery in the resort serves double portions. I tried my best to keep up.

Hash House-Mohegan Sun

Fresh off the airplane we drove over to the Old State House in downtown Hartford CT to see the Joseph Steward Museum of Curiosities. It’s small but well worth the price of admission and time involved. Be sure to ask for your AAA discount. There was actually a lot more at the State House than I expected and we ended up spending several hours there.

Joseph Steward Museum of Curiosities

PT Barnum-chair-Hartford

Possibly our new favorite place in CT is the Gillette Castle State Park. This was the home of William Gillette, the actor who defined the modern portrayal of Sherlock Holmes with his cap, pipe, violin, and hypodermic needle. It was a pretty awesome place and, to me, a must stop spot in CT.

The riverside photo below is the remains of Gillette’s old houseboat that burned. It’s easy to find. You can park at the ferry below the castle or even walk a trail from the castle down to the river.

Gillette Castle-CT

Gillette Castle-CT-2



A place I would highly recommend you avoid in CT is the city of Bridgeport. Everything about Bridgeport is pretty sketchy, and most of the downtown resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The Barnum Museum is located there, but is closed most of the time and not worth the trip.


We climbed Mt. Tom to see the tower at the summit. You can ascend right up onto the top deck of the tower.

Mt Tom-CT

Then we visited Sleeping Giant State Park and the small castle at the summit of Mt. Carmel.

Sleeping Giant State Park-CT

There are way more photographs and reviews of places I visited than I could put in the blog. Be sure to check out my Facebook page for the pics. If we’re not FB friends yet, why not?

I’m also doing more work for Trip Advisor, so you can see my reviews of places visited, including hotels and eateries on there. You can find my TA account HERE.

I also do coffee shop crawls anytime I travel for another business venture of mine The Coffee Scholar. Check out the CT Coffee Crawl on that site.

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Our 1st Annual PFFT! (Powers Family Fun Triathlon)

I’ve always wanted to complete a triathlon, but just never worked up the nerve or made the logistics pan out to do it. So, I got to thinking, “Why not just host one?” I spoke to my wife (as all smart men do), and we decided to go for it. For years we’ve done a first of the year family and friends event that’s geared to prove to us and others that, as a family, that we’re willing to push ourselves and challenge others at the same time. Our event for almost a decade has been a January polar bear plunge, so a triathlon was a welcome change for us.

polar bear plunge-ocean lakes-myrtle beach

Yesterday, we inaugurated the 1st Annual PFFT!, or Powers Family Fun Triathlon. It felt like a very Bob Goff like event. If you don’t know about some of Bob’s wild and wacky events, just check out one of his books. As a matter of fact, he was kind of the inspiration for going all out with this. I hope it gets bigger and even more fun. Maybe we’ll even see you next year. It’s an invitation only event, so let me know if you want to be considered for 2016.


To keep the first one manageable, we only invited around 40 people. Amazingly, from the moment the first invite went out, the excuses started rolling in. They ranged the gamut from injuries, tired, spouse won’t let me, and you’re crazy all the way to a semi-pro runner who’s body is apparently finely tuned that he’s too fragile for a triathlon. You know who you are! I’m calling you out!

Out of 40 invites, we had 6 total contenders, and half of them were kids 12 and under. I’m so darn proud of those kids! One of our adults even borrowed a bike, which was also an excuse we got from another non-competitor. I love destroying excuses people give.

We decided to go with a Super Sprint distance triathlon, which is manageable for any adult or kid if they simply push themselves. That’s a 1.5 mile run, a 6.2 mile bike, and a 1/4 mile swim. We also eliminated the transition time stress by adding 1 minute per transition instead of keeping them on the clock. There was no official race ending time either, although we were all done within a 2 hour time. I wanted to entire thing to be super simple and low stress, if for nothing else, but to destroy the myth that triathlons are impossible if you’re not in impeccable shape.

triathlon-group-Myrtle Beach-Pirateland

Be sure to check out my Facebook page for a lot more photos.

I also owe a special thanks to our volunteers and helpers- my mom for watching my 2 youngest feral kids, my dad for keeping the times and watching the bikes, and Sara Wise for loaning Katie a sweet Diamondback bike named Beatrice. I also want to thank Todd and Vickie at Pirateland Campground for allowing us to use their facilities for all this craziness.

And with no further waiting, here are our results…

All participants with no age indicated are adults. Times are in MIN:SEC.


  1. David Powers 60:35
  2. Katie Corley 68.80
  3. Benaiah Powers (7yo) 82:79
  4. Korrene Powers 87:35
  5. Abishai Powers (10yo) 98:34
  6. Ethan Van Buren (12yo) 102:45

Run- 1.5 mile

  1. Benaiah Powers 16:55
  2. Katie Corley 16:57
  3. David Powers 17:00
  4. Korrene Powers 26:10
  5. Ethan Van Buren 27:29
  6. Abishai Powers 27:29

Bike- 6.2 miles

  1. David Powers 29:10
  2. Katie Corley 36:10
  3. Benaiah Powers 42:24
  4. Korrene Powers 42:25
  5. Abishai Powers 46:05
  6. Ethan Van Buren 51.77

Swim- .25 mile

  1. David Powers 12:25
  2. Katie Corley 14:13
  3. Korrene Powers 17:12
  4. Benaiah Powers 22:32
  5. Ethan Van Buren 23:39
  6. Abishai Powers 23:45

Once again, I was so proud of the kids who participated. I simply could not catch up to my 7yo on the run. Every time I got close he took off faster. Ethan, another one of the kids, kept going on and on despite severe mechanical problems with his bike.

Now to keep training for next year’s event!

As a special treat to you, here’s a couple of things I recommend for training…

My entire training philosophy comes from the book Extreme Alpinism.

The book Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete is a great book for a beginner tri participant.

And my recommendations for nutrition HERE.

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Wrapping Up 2014 with a Bang!

Here we go with a recap of the past year for your viewing enjoyment…

Instead of really starting any completely new streams of income, I repurposed a lot of my information products and books so that they’re sold on multiple platforms. The majority of my income in that area comes from Amazon and Fiverr.

Here’s one of my new books that will be coming out this year…

marriage-relationship-Dr. Powers

I consumed (i.e. read) 35 books. This is about the same as last year. I’m still trying to enjoy and remember my reading more and not just reading for the sake of logging another completed book. In 2011 I read over 100 books, but felt that I lost something in the recall. I’ve been reading Antifragile by Nassim Taleb for the entire year. I’ve actually started it over twice. It’s heavy stuff and worth learning.

I was out of town for fun or business for 40 days in 6 states. No out of country trips though. I’d still love to travel more. I did manage to climb 2 new highpoints in Connecticutt and Rhode Island.


Only played golf 5 times, which is pitiful. My average score is still 108. I’m still working to get to the point where my average score is below 100. Playing more would certainly help with that.

Spoke publicly 134 times, which broke down mostly into churches, corporate training and colleges. This also included 2 weddings, 1 funeral, and 1 baptism. I attended or spoke at the Connecticut EMS Expo, the Greenville SC Homeschool Conference, TEDxCharleston, X-Con, the Midlands Homeschool Conference, Dragoncon, North Carolina Emergency Medicine Today, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Human Resources Conference, and the South Carolina Banker’s Association Human Resources Conference in addition to other venues.

I ate out 181 times (about 15 times a month).

I imbibed 229 cups of coffee and 290 soft drinks. I’d like to see an inverse relationship there as the coffee goes up and the soft drinks go down. Either way, the soda numbers need to drop. Me being a coffee expert, people might question why so few cups of coffee. The thing is, I drink it with a purpose. My mom consumes about 20 cups a day, but I’m not sure she actually tastes anything.

Dr. David Powers-Cappucino-coffee

Wrote over 163 blog posts, which is half of last year’s tally, but it was an area I needed to cut back on. Blog views were just under 30,000. I expected some slowdown in this area as my new team split up my main blog into several different areas to focus on niches instead of a general lifestyle thing. Check out my website if you’d like to see the links for the other blogs. Views will go up this year as we capitalize on marketing those blogs.

I worked out 250 times, an increase over the previous year. This resulted in a weight loss of 17 pounds. In addition, on the physical side, I biked 407.43 miles, swam 7.98 miles, and kayaked 20 miles.

kayak-Murrells Inlet

What big strides did you make this year?

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

I Hate Chris Guillebeau and His Wandering Ways

Not really. I am so excited that I’ve had the opportunity to read after Chris Guillebeau, to meet him, and to become an alumnus of the first two World Domination Summits. I often wonder how people got to know Chris. I met him through a blog post by Tim Ferriss, followed by a post about him by my friend Dan Miller, followed by sending him an e-mail and buying his first book The Art of Nonconformity.

I can tell you that he’s an awesome guy. If you meet him, he may seem kind of quiet and laid back, but there is so much going on with him that you just need to sit back and wait for the awesome to come out.

That’s why I hate him (sort of). He keeps challenging me. I just finished reading an advance copy of his new book The Happiness of Pursuit that came out today. It’s all about quests and the purposeful journeys we take in life. Chris’ last two books and manifesto were great, but, more than ever, this book is a call to action.

Chris Guillebeau-happiness of pursuit

One chapter in, I felt sad that I had no quest. Two chapters in, I decided that me and my boys would become ninjas. Three chapters in, I called a family meeting, and we all sat down and planned a round trip across North America. The rest of the book served as motivation and affirmation not only that I needed a quest, but that my choices were right.

Before I tell you about my quests, let me say that if you feel lost, aimless, or distracted in life, you need this book. Read it as therapy and be open to change.

My quest to become a ninja…

All of my adult life I’ve been involved in various martial arts beginning with hand-to-hand combat in the Marines all the way to my black belt in Oppido Dolens. But ever since I was a little kid watching all the uber-awesome ninja movies of the 1980’s, I’ve wanted to be a ninja. One of the questers in Chris’ book mentioned this same goal, and that’s what galvanized it for me.

I’m now studying ninjutsu under a 10th Dan practitioner of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu and starting at the bottom as a 9th Kyu. My boys are also doing this with me. My goal for this quest is to test for my ninjutsu black belt within 3 years. I know it may seem fast, but my previous martial arts experience makes the experience a little easier. My boys’ goals are to achieve their ninjutsu black belts at the age of 18.


My quest to travel North America (again)…

I went on a three month journey across North America in 1999 before I got married and it was an experience I will never forget. I want my wife and kids to have the same experience. Our family quest is for me, my wife, and our 4 kids to travel across North America up to Alaska and back across.

So far, we’ve planned a rough route and a few of our stops, but we don’t have a formal date or budget for this one yet. Consider this one still in the planning stages. I even have it planned to stop in Portland to see Chris.

north america-road trip-drive

So, with all that said, what’s your quest? Not sure, go buy the book, and it’ll drive you in the right direction.

PS…what’s your favorite ninja movie of all time?

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!


CT Trip Report

My wife and I just returned from an awesome trip up to the frozen north. I was up there speaking at the CT EMS Expo as faculty with three lectures. They treated us wonderfully and held the conference at the Mohegan Sun resort. I usually stay in cheaper hotels, and this was the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. We even gambled a little. I came back with double what I put in and my wife quadrupled her money.


Here’s a rundown of the trip…

States visited- CT, MA, and RI with mileage of around 400 miles on the rental car. I was amazed that you can drive all the way across CT in under 2 hours.

Summits and trails-

  • Round Mountain in MA twice
  • Mt. Frissell summit in MA twice and the highpoint of CT on the SW slope. We made it up and down the Frissell approach trail in 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’d rate the trail at strenuous with some very fun near vertical rock scrambling.
  • Jerimoth Hill, the highpoint of RI


Event stops-

  • Great Barrington MA
  • Mystic CT
  • Mark Twain house and museum in Hartford CT
  • And lots and lots of traipsing around CT with stops at neat little shops, cafes, and churches along the way

CT Trip June 2014001

In addition to the hiking and walking, we really lucked out and found some decent hotels with nice pools. I swam almost every nice, averaging over 500 yards each time. DON’T forget to workout when you travel!

I was really impressed with how clean and green CT was. After visiting the area, I have to sadly admit that my own home state of SC is really trashy. People up there just seemed to care a lot more about making their living place beautiful. This was my first visit anywhere in New England, and I’m looking forward to getting back up there with my kids.

Be sure to check out my Facebook page or Twitter for way more trip photos.

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Top Seven Things Wrong with the Airport

I’m on a trip right now way up in New England from my home in South Carolina. There’ll be a trip report later, but for now you are more than welcome to my musings about the airport section of the journey. Here we go…

  1. There’s a stupid goofy US Airways guy at the airport in Myrtle Beach SC that thinks he’s really funny but isn’t. I heard him one time telling some young women that their bags weighed too much and then proceed to sing “Money, Money, Money” while they stuffed things into their carry on.
  2. Yoga pants are apparently the unofficial uniform or air travel for women (and some men). I’m convinced most women should not wear them. At all. Period. Yoga pants are the dingy grey sweats of this decade.
  3. I staked out a spot at the top of the stairs and watched people. While I was there 85% of the people took the escalators, 10% took the elevator, and 5% came up the stairs. Thankfully, all of the people in the elevator were infirm, with strollers, or caregivers for either. Most of the people who used the escalator were healthy enough for the stairs or needed the stairs to be a little healthier.
  4. Hudson stores at the airport charge prices that feel like legalized rape because they have no competition and also…because they can.
  5. We need to go back to having pretty flight attendants. Old men do not make good attendants.
  6. You already know this, but the airlines will charge you for everything. Next on their price list is to charge you in the bathroom. Simply slide your credit card in slot after you make your deposit. #1 will be charged per fluid ounce and #2 charged per gram of fecal material.
  7. With those Youtube videos Southwest has set the bar really high for all the other airlines…and, so far, none are trying to hit the bar.

What crazy things have you noticed in the airports lately?

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!


Planning a Great Escape from the Normal-pocalypse

I absolutely love what I do.

I have a client right now who asked me to help plan the logistics for a great escape from the normal-pocalypse. They’re a lot like me, or at least like I was, which is even better.

  • Young family with several kids under the teen years
  • Stuck in a job that pays the bills but sucks the marrow from the soul
  • Experimenting with alternative educational methods for their kids

RV Turtle Ad

Their goals…

Move into a minimalist lifestyle

Transition to remote location work

Spend at least a year traveling North America by auto followed by a semi-nomadic lifestyle with frequent trips afterwards

Not be wealthy but have enough money to not worry about regular jobs unless they find something they want to do for a while

AK Hwy Mile 1

Right now we’re working through logistics on several fronts with a keen eye on affordability at every step.

  • Selling, gifting, or storing their belongings from the house to the kids’ toys
  • Outfitting an awesome road trip vehicle capable of transporting an entire family in relative comfort
  • Lining up remote work contracts and projects
  • Looking at places to visit on the road and the logistics of affordability with food, shelter, and fuel.

I gotta tell you, I’m having so much fun with this that I find myself planning a big trip for my own family.

If you could take a great escape for a year, where would you go? Would you roam or hunker down in one spot?

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Customer Service Excellence at The North Face

I’ve been using The North Face technical climbing gear since I first started my Seven Summits dream back in the 1990’s. I’m talking everything from the base layer on up. It’s performed marvelously over the years without a hitch. Never a snag. Never a rip. Never an errant drop of water or cold blast of wind to ruin a trip.

I love their gear. Now I love it even more. In addition to my own gear, I now have 4 kids that I’m outfitting for adventure.

One of my boys broke the zipper on his winter coat. I pulled up the warranty link on the TNF website and mailed the coat to them. Several weeks later, no questions asked, no extra money needed, TNF sent my son’s coat back perfectly repaired.

Ice storm_Feb 2013

In this day and age, when big companies are squeezing every cent out of shoppers with little thought to customer service, I applaud TNF for their awesome warranty policy. I’ll keep using their gear and keep buying it for my own brood of rockrats.

Thanks guys!

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out my book African Snow on Kindle!

Uhuru 1

Attention to Orders…General James B. Vaught is Leaving for a New Duty Station

You know the old saying, “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.” It’s true. Unless a soldier dies in combat, they tend to just come home, return to normal life, and slowly fade away. Some take longer than others though. Some keep finding causes and missions to fight for and continue a different kind of war. General James B. Vaught was one of those. I knew him, not well enough to call a friend, but well enough that he’d ask me about my family or kids whenever we ran into each other. It feels good when a 3-star General does that.

Here’s a pic I took with him a few years back. I told him he looked like a grizzled Ernest Hemmingway.

Gen Vaught

General Vaught left us the other day for a new duty station. Here’s the article from the paper

Retired army general with strong Horry County roots dies in apparent drowning

CONWAY — Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught, one of Horry County’s most decorated U.S. Army veterans and a direct descendant of Francis Marion, died Friday after being found in a pond near Old Reaves Ferry Road.

The 86-year-old Conway man was remembered this weekend for his amazing service to his country, his educated opinion and his lack of fear to be an outspoken citizen of Horry County.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said Vaught was found in a pond near Old Reaves Ferry Road at about 5:30 p.m. Friday after his family notified authorities that he had not come home. Edge said a land and water search ensued and Vaught was eventually found.

“We’re not sure how he got there, but he was found near a pontoon boat,” Edge said.

He said Saturday’s autopsy showed Vaught died of asphyxia due to drowning, but there were also signs of cardiac disease.

Vaught’s family has deep roots in Horry County. The first two of his line to settle here came from Germany and put down roots in 1683. He and his wife, Florence, were very active with the Horry County Museum.

Vaught was born in Conway and attended the Citadel in Charleston in the early 1940s. He was drafted in 1945 and received his commission as a second lieutenant in February 1946. His civil and military education spanned more than 23 years, and has more than 38 years of service. His last assignment was commanding general, combined field Army, Republic of Korea/United States, assigned to defend the DMZ from Camp Red Cloud Korea. He served with the 82nd Airborne, the 1st Cavalry Air Assault and seven other divisions, the Army General Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

After pinning his first and second stars, Vaught was the Chief of Staff, 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, Assistant Division Commander 82nd Airborne, Chief of Staff, Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe, commanding General 24th Infantry Division, and was Director of Operations, Readiness and Mobilization Headquarters, for the Army during President Jimmy Carter’s term in office.

As director, Vaught stood with Carter and other top national security officials in the White House Situation Room to scrutinize classified plans to end the Iranian hostage crisis. The mission was to rescue 53 American hostages who had been held since the previous November.

Shortly after a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that November, Vaught took a high-speed Concorde flight from Europe back to Washington. For months he led a group of elite soldiers from various branches of the military through training exercises to prepare for the rescue mission, which grew more urgent – and captured more of America’s attention – with each passing day. A series of misfires, including a helicopter crash that killed eight American soldiers, ensured the failure of what would come to be known as one of the biggest blunders of Carter’s presidency.

Since Vaught’s retirement in 1983, he served as a consultant and adviser to military and civilian agencies in the development and production of avionics, digital communications, night vision equipment and radar for military use, such as special operations. He was also a member of the special operations policy and advisory group for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

In 1985, Vaught chaired a study group sponsored by the American Security Council. The group produced and sent the “Peace through Strength” proposal to the White House. President Ronald Reagan adopted the idea and used it to neutralize and eliminate the Soviet Union without firing a shot.

Vaught was in Seoul, South Korea, when the North Koreans announced they had violated the 1994 “No Nuclear Weapons in Korea” agreement, which prompted him to write the “Six Nations” proposal. Vaught sent the proposal to all six capitals – the United States, China, Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea – and implored them to use diplomacy to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

In March 2006, Vaught received the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Lifetime Achievement Award for his more than 60 years of contributions to the U.S. Special Operations Community.

“What a great American,” said Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus. “His service to the United States and what he’s done in his career is really profound. It’s just a sad day. It really is.”

Vaught often found himself in front of the County Council, providing white papers and doing his best to convince the council of his opinion. In fact, Lazarus remembers Vaught recently wagging his finger and telling Lazarus to start the paving work on International Drive and ended the conversation with “get it done!”

“It’ll give me more determination to get the paving done on International Drive,” Lazarus said. “He’ll be greatly missed.”

Liz Gilland, former chairwoman for County Council with nearly two decades of public service, said she worked with Vaught for years.

“He was a living legend to me,” she said. “He was extremely interested in getting involved. He kept his eye on us to make sure we did everything best for the county, or at least what he thought was best for the county. He was always preparing white papers for us to review when making decisions.”

Gilland said Vaught stood out from others who spoke to council through the years.

“He not only got up there and spoke his opinion, he got up there with a depth of knowledge and a huge portion of care for the county he was born in,” Gilland said. “I considered General Vaught a very good friend and true American hero.”

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught’s Awards and Decorations

• Distinguished Service Medal

• Silver Star

• The Legion of Merit

• Distinguished Flying Cross

• Soldier’s Medal

• Bronze Star

• Meritorious Service Medal

• Air Medal

• Joint Services Commendation Medal

• Army Commendation Medal

• Purple Heart

Badges include:

• Combat infantry

• Master parachutist

General Staff Identification

• Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification

• Office of Secretary of Defense Identification

• Glider

• Ranger Tab

Here’s the link to his Wikipedia page for even more information.

I really liked the old warrior. He was a good man and will be missed by the military and local communities. I’ve heard a lot of stories about him and from him over the years, but I think the best one is hearing that he was the only guy with big enough balls to chew out President Carter for killing a lot of soldiers in Operation Eagle Claw.

Rest In Peace General Vaught.

This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!