Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sky Soldier Gets His Final Wings

8th of November 1965

I will be heading south to attend the Memorial Service for this newly assigned Sky Angel. Even though we only saw each other a few times a year, he was a friend and Brother. He made a difference in the lives of people. He was a Warrior and and a Patriot.

This blog salutes the Warrior and the Patriot and the man Ted Sampley. He is in good company now, as he was before he was called.

KINSTON - Theodore Lane "Ted" Sampley, 62, of 2317 Hull Road, passed away on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at the Veteran's Hospital in Durham. He was preceded in death by his father, Theodore Higgins Sampley; his son, Tim Sampley; his half-brother, Michael Smith; and his first wife, Wendy's mother, Kiku Uehara Sampley Penley. He was born July 17, 1946, and left Wil-mington in 1963 at the age of 17 to join the United States Army.

He went through Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training and Airborne School. In June 1964, he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade on the island of Okinawa.

On May 5, 1965, Sampley was deployed to Vietnam with the 173rd, where he served as a combat infantryman until April 1966. He participated in combat operations in the Iron Triangle, War Zone D, Ben Cat, the Ho Bo Woods and other areas of South Vietnam.

After being chosen to be trained as a Green Beret (United States Army Special Forces), Sampley was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa. While in Okinawa, Sampley took advantage of his off duty time to study ceramics and the many traditions, designs, techniques, and forms of handcrafted Okinawan pottery.

Local craftsmen contributed a wealth of knowledge for Sampley, allowing him to eventually create his own distinctive works. In Viet-nam, Staff Sergeant Sampley served as company commander of a B-36 Mike Force, civilian Irregular Defense Group Company (CIDG), assigned to operate along the Cambodian border.

During that year of combat service, Sampley was awarded four Bronze Stars, the Army Com-mendation Medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

In 1970, Sampley was reassigned to the 3rd and later the 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg where he continued his military training. Sampley's training in the Army included Operations and Intelligence, methods of pris-oner of war interrogations, escape and evasion training, guerrilla warfare training, understanding, the Viet Cong infrastructure and High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachuting.

He had a working knowledge of two languages, Arabic and Japanese.

From 1971 to 1973, Sampley worked during his off-duty time as a volunteer for Americans Who Care, a POW/MIA group in Fayetteville, N.C. that was lobbying for the safe return of all U.S. POWs held by the communists in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

After 10 years of service, Sampley left the Army with a Honorable Discharge in 1973.
Sampley returned to Wilmington where he worked for a television station and then a local weekly newspaper. He eventually succumbed to the lure of pottery and built his own kiln and began teaching pottery. He soon established a production pottery busi-ness called The Potters Wheel and began mass producing good quality functional and decora-tive glazed stoneware.

In 1983, after he became aware that Hanoi had not released all living American POWs in 1973, Sampley became re-involved as a POW/MIA activist demanding for the U.S. government to put more pressure on Hanoi to either release the men or explain what happened to them. Sampley has led many demonstrations in Washington, D.C. demanding that both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments account for the U.S. servicemen known to have been alive in captivity but never released.

He was honored for "Exemplary Service to Veterans" by the Washington, D.C. based National Vietnam Veterans Coalition on May 6, 1985, in New York at the Coalition's Leadership Breakfast.

During Kinston's "All America City" celebration, Sampley was awarded a "Key to Kinston" as recognition for his support for Kinston. Sampley was publisher/editor/writer of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch. He was appointed chairman of the non-profit Last Firebase Veterans Archives Project in 1988. That group created one of the largest collections of privately held POW/MIA files.

From 1986 to 2003, the Last Firebase kept a non-stop, manned 24-hour vigil for POWs and MIAs in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Sampley testified in 1991 before the Senate Select Committee of POW/MIA Affairs.

The Lenoir County Cham-ber of Commerce gave Sampley special recognition in December 1991 for his help in the restoration of Kinston's historic downtown. North Carolina's Raleigh News and Observer honored Sampley on September 28, 1992, as their "Tar Heel of the Week and member of a very special group of North Carolinians who have contributed their time, skills and talents toward making North Carolina a truly great state and a wonderful place to live."
After conducting many hours of research, Sampley found compelling evidence proving that the remains buried in the tomb of the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery belonged to Air Force Lt. Michael Blassie. It was evidence that Sampley said the Pentagon had deliberately over-looked.

Sampley first made the Unknown Soldier's identity public in the July 1994 issue of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch. Five years later (1999), the U.S. Government, under pressure from CBS television, finally used a DNA sample and confirmed that the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier was indeed Lt. Blassie.

A military honor guard returned Lt. Blassie's remains to his family in St. Louis, Missouri where he was buried again with full military honors in a national cemetery.

In February 1996, Sampley was nominated for the Kinston Free Press "Citizen of the Year" award. The Free Press cited Sampley for the "good work" he was doing in the community. VietNow, a national veteran's organization, named Sampley Veteran of the Year. He was also named Citizen of the Year by the Wheat Swamp Ruritan Club of Lenoir County. He was a founding member of the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families and was one of their annual guest speakers.

Sampley was co-founder of Kinston's annual Salute to Veterans celebration. He led two community service programs in Kinston; the building of a 158-foot replica of Kinston's Civil War ironclad CSS Neuse and the National Walk of Honor for Veterans.

Sampley was currently Vice President of Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in Washington, D.C. He was one of the original founders of the 22-year-old veterans organization. Last year, nearly a half million veterans and Rolling Thunder supporters attended the annual rally in the nation's capital.

Rolling Thunder has developed into Washington's largest annual special event.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2009, from Tanglewood Church of God, 2103 Rouse Road with the Reverend Allen Stocks, Pastor Allen Ham and Robert Register officiating.

The family will receive friends immediately following the funeral service at the church.

Interment services will be held at 3 p.m. on Monday, May 18, 2009, from the Dyson Family Cemetery in Ivanhoe, N.C. with full Military Honors.

Survivors include his mother, Dorothy Pate Smith of Wilmington; his daughter, Wendy Sampley Shehane of Columbus, Ga.; his son, Owen Lane Sampley of Kinston and his son's mother, Robin Owen Goodman of Wilmington; his granddaughter, Chaney Huan Shehane of Columbus, Ga.; his brother, Ronnie Sampley and wife Debra, of West Virginia; his special cousins, Janice Lanier of Leland and April Jones and her son, Kevin Williams of Leland; other cousins, nieces, and great nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Lane Sampley Education Fund, c/o Frances Parrott at First Citizens Bank, 607 Plaza Blvd, Kinston, NC 28501. Garner Funeral Home in Kinston is in charge of the arrangements.

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