"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vietnam Memories: Sgt. Bob Sampson

It’s the middle of the night, and I wake up with images of Vietnam in my mind. I've been dreaming --never whole stories, just flashes of memory like a slide-show. The memories are just bits and pieces ...

1967 - Six men lying beside a trail for hours waiting for the VC to come by. And when they do, you're so close you can reach out and touch them, but you don't make a sound. The mission is to count not kill.

Cat Lai - Knife throwing training.

The night we lost a team, wiped out, except one. The next day they brought their gear back to camp, blood all over the rucks. We had to inventory their gear and personal items so the personal stuff could be sent home.

The first VC I killed, up close and personal. My M-16 vs. his AK-47 -- I happened to be quicker…LRRP- 1, VC -0. Someone yelling, “You got him, you got him”.

Lying in the swamp at night with big black leeches stuck all over your body and nothing you could do because the VC was all around you. Needing to take a leak, but you couldn't move, so you peed your pants.

Next to Nolin when he stepped on a mine and being hit with shrapnel and pieces of his foot.

Doing a pre-mission over flight in an A-1 bird dog. The pilot letting me “drive it around”.

Coming back from our FOB and stopping at a bar outside Bien Hoa. The girl in a red and white Mini dress and white boots.

1970 - FOB at Cat Lai, the repelling tower.

RECONDO School. Climbing up a rope ladder into a chopper, thinking, hope I never have to do this under fire.

The 7 mile runs with the sand bag in your ruck.

FOB at the Fishnet factory and the Mud hole.

Files and I doing two man recons in Tan Ninh, planting the seismic and listening devices along trails coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. Because the devices were top secret, they wanted us to go back in and retrieve them after we had called in an Air strike. Not much to recover after a couple of bomb runs from an F-4.

The look on a rookie’s face the first time I light a piece of C-4 to heat up water for my LRP Rations. Chicken and Rice or Beef and Rice -- Good! Beef Hash or Pork with Scalloped Potatoes -- not so good.

My first time at a Fire Support base during a “Mad Minute”. I thought we were getting over run.

Lt. White offering Files and I a Field Commission. Sounded good until I read the fine print. OCS, Commissioned in Infantry, and back to Vietnam as a 2nd LT. Both of us declined.

1968 - Bob Hope Show, Lola Falana. I fell in love.

Going to the club with the Gun ship pilots who had supported us on a mission and all of us getting falling down drunk.

Coming into an LZ full of elephant grass, stepping off the skid thinking your about a foot off the ground and find out it’s about 8 feet to the ground. Not a pretty landing.

Working the Pineapple Plantation and the leaves on the pineapple plants ripping your pants and skin to shreds.

Wait-a-minute vines and Fuck-You Lizards.

The first time I had to crawl into a tunnel with my 45 and flashlight -- not one of my favorite activities.

Last Mission, the intense searing heat from the bullets hitting my hip and leg and then the pain like I have never felt before. Look down and my left leg is out at a 45 degree angle from mid thigh. Me thinking, “Man I'm in deep shit”. Training takes over, tie a tourniquet, inject a morphine syrett into my leg -- yeah, a lot of good that did.

Being pulled out by Dust-Off with a Jungle Penetrator, rounds hitting the bottom of the helicopter as I was being pulled in.

Laying in the Field Hospital. Noise and people yelling -- I was the one doing most of the yelling, every time they would move me. Cold and thirsty, the nurse telling me I couldn't have water, but she gave me a wet wash cloth too suck on. The Doc asking me how many times I had been shot. I didn't know.

Waking up in ICU in a body cast with all my parts in the proper places.

The night I got medivaced out of Vietnam.

Tan Son Nhat Airbase. Receiving incoming mortar and rocket fire.

In the ICU, a young nurse, a 2nd LT, looking like she just graduated from high school and trying to start an IV for a blood transfusion. Every time a round exploded she would jump. Tears were running down her cheeks and she keep telling me “I'm sorry, I'm sorry”. Finally another nurse pushed her aside and hit the vein the first time.

Hospital in Japan, triple amputee next to me. When he wasn't crying he was screaming. Guy’s on the ward yelling at him to shut the fuck up!

Letterman Army Hospital. Surgery after surgery. Six months without a pass. My Physical Therapist decided to help me go AWOL, at least for one night. Getting me out of the Hospital in a full body cast not much of problem, but not so easy getting me into her VW Bug. Mission accomplished.

Just some of the bits and pieces of memories from Vietnam ...

Sgt. Bob Sampson
71st LRRP 1967/68 RVN
M Company 75th RANGER 1969/70 RVN

***Thank you for your service, Bob, and for sharing.  Welcome Home. 
With much respect,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. Welcome home Sgt. Bob Sampson.

    Craig Latham
    101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
    Combat writer/combat photographer

    Sugarcreek, Ohio

  2. Dear Sgt. Bob Sampson, thank you for your service so many years ago. This story so very interesting, I love your writing. I to am attempting to create a Vietnam story to publish. Take lots of time writing and developing this valuable skill.

    Writer and fly tier.

    Plainfield, IL


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