I joined the Air Force in 1967 at Pittsburgh, PA, and I separated in 1971 at McChord AFB, WA.
I joined the USAF because I’ve been involved with aircraft all my life. After I joined the Air Force, I was doing maintenance and FCFs on T-28s when I learned about this new program with C-119s that needed people to fill some crew positions. Since I was on flying status I was what they were looking for. So the next thing I knew I was training with the Reserve crews flying C-119s. After many hours flying and learning the C-119 from front to back at Clinton County AFB, I went to Lockbourne to complete training.
I then got orders for Vietnam. When I landed at Cam Ranh Bay I said “This isn’t too bad.” Then I got the good news I was heading to Phan Rang, and my first night there I received a greeting of rocket attacks. So I kind of figured I was in the wrong place and it was going to be a long 18th SOS tour. The next day I was greeted by the pilot of my crew, Major George Hardy. We started talking and I found out that he was a Tuskegee Airman! I knew I would be flying with someone with a lot of experience flying which made me feel better about what we had to do, knowing that my pilot would be able to handle any situation that would come up.
My most Memorable Person in SEA was Major George Hardy – Aircraft Commander. We flew many successful missions because of Major Hardy’s flying skills and the always capable protection of the F-4 Phantoms that were always nearby. My most Memorable Event with AC-119s was one particular mission where we spotted a truck convoy. As we started our firing run, we started to take heavy ground fire, and took quite a few hits. I did not realize it at the time, but I took a piece of shrapnel in my right knee. Not until the mission was completed, and the crew was debriefing, another crew member pointed out to me that I had a wound in my knee. Amazing how when a person is so intent at the task at hand, that adrenaline will take over and make you oblivious to certain minor problems…. like pain! After many months of missions my body gave out; my lungs gave out; and the next thing I knew I woke up 2 months later at the Clark AFB Hospital in the Philippines where I stayed for 2 more months for a total of 4 months. I was finally discharged out of McChord AFB.
My decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal (5 OLC).
With my Air Force career over and only 1 small gym bag full of minor things and none of my flight gear at all – and I never got that back. That is my Air Force story and I love to fly still.
I retired from Yanko Chevrolet-as their Head Mechanic. My wife Debby and I have a son Sam Jr and daughter Tina, and grandkids Andrew, Haley, and Emily.