WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Fifty years after he returned from Vietnam, a Wichita native says he still dreams about it.
Bill Sample said the camaraderie with the guys will always mean so much to him.
“We supported each other, 100%, all the time, we got our buddies back all the time,” Sample said.
He said they were all just a bunch of kids in a war.
Sample knew he was headed to boot camp once he graduated North High.
“I got drafted 12 days after high school,” Vietnam Veteran Bill Sample said.
Sample registered with the draft board at 18, and in no time, he was moving all over the place in Vietnam.
He explained how helicopters got them from place to place.
“That’s how we moved,” Sample said. “You are way up in the air, and you see your stuff below hanging.”
He said they also filled a ton of sandbags.
“There’s our sleeping quarters right there, we had to build all the time,” Sample said.
They were just off of Hamburger Hill.
“That’s why I took the picture, just for the memories,” Sample said.
He was part of a division, in the Big Red One.
“They are on a firing mission in that picture right there,” Sample said.
He served as a radio operator.
“We would always read the data back three or four times,” Sample said.
He said they would then pass along the data to the gunners, and the assistant gunners.
“If you didn’t get the right data in, you could fire the rounds into the wrong spot and hit our own people,” Sample said.
Sample knows what it’s like to come under enemy fire.
“Anything can pop up, you know,” Sample said.
Sample said the guys had a real scary night one night, when a rocket landed right next to one of their cots, he said thankfully it was a dud.
That certainly wasn’t the case when Sample and another soldier ran into an ambush.
When it happened, Sample was just about two months shy of heading home.
“My mouth just dropped into my stomach when that happened, and I had to think fast,” Sample said.
He said they shot out the tire and hit the frame on his Jeep.
“If I hadn’t swerved over, they probably would have gotten me in the back of the head,” Sample said. “I was really, really lucky.”
He said he was so thankful when his time in Vietnam was done.
“I was glad to come home,” Sample said.
He said there was no welcome home.
“Just came home, and that was it,” Sample said.
Sample said what made that even worse, was knowing how many soldiers would never make it back.
“I always choke up when I see the wall,” Sample said.
He paid tribute to a dear friend in D.C., during a Kansas Honor Flight.
“When we got there, there were so many people there, screaming and yelling and saying welcome back and welcome home,” Sample said.
He said that meant so much to all the veterans.
“It’s been a long time, but it is still in your heart,” Sample said.
He still has his uniform.
“Pass it down to my kids and my grandkids,” Sample said.
He already passed down a love for service, three of his sons know exactly what it was like to head off to basic training.
“Felt, really proud of them, for being in the military,” Sample said. “I got in, and they just followed my steps.”
His wife is very proud of her veteran, and in the last decade or so, did the paperwork to get him the medals he earned.
“Didn’t have to go in, but I did anyway,” Sample said. “I felt it was right to go.”