In 1967, Sam Farris was serving his country during the Vietnam War. At just 19 years old, Farris was involved in a firefight near the Cambodian border, when he was wounded in action. Farris claims that day as one of the hardest part of his life, and now, nearly 50 years later, he is being recognized for his heroic actions. Long overdue, Farris has been awarded the Purple Heart, along with a host of other medals for his exemplary service.
Farris explained his service to WSLS.com by saying “the insects, the snakes, the weather. Six months of dry weather, six months of monsoon rain, it rained every day. You just couldn’t get dry.” But Farris had much more to worry about than just the elements while in Vietnam.
While serving in one of the nation’s most unpopular wars, Farris managed to do something for himself. He took the time to snap photographs whenever he could, and he still has them to this day. Until recently, they were among the only physical reminders he had of his time spent in battle.
Another unfortunate memento that Farris carries around with him lies in his hand. During one particular battle, a mortar blew up near him. That explosion killed more than half of his unit, and left Farris with a piece of shrapnel permanently embedded in his hand.
“They knocked out the number one gun, they silenced it along with the crew,” Farris explained to WSLS with tears in his eyes. “I told the guys next to me, I guess the next one will be right on us. That’s when I receive the shrapnel in my hands.”
Because their unit was so severely overrun, the paperwork explaining Farris’ injury was never filed, meaning he would not have been eligible for the Purple Heart. “The medic,” Farris explained “he was overwhelmed because of all the wounded and the record keeping out in the field, these choppers coming in and out of the field blowing paperwork everywhere.”
Upon returning from the war, Farris never made a big deal out of his lack of medals or commendation for his duty. It wasn’t until just a few years ago, during a reunion with the surviving members of his unit, the Farris decided to write to the Army to try to get the medals he deserved.
Farris, who currently lives with his wife and has two grown sons, finally received the Purple Heart in a ceremony just days before Veterans Day. Along with the Purple Heart, Farris also received more than a dozen other medals and commendations from the Army. “It’s been a long time coming, but it feels alright,” Farris stated.
By Brett Gillin