Central Texas Heroes: Sam Murphey

Veteran Sam Murphey

WACO, Texas (KWTX) For Sam Murphey serving the community and the nation is a lifelong mission.

Before becoming a Killeen City Council member and working in the office of former U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards, he spent 22 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

But many people may not know how close he came to danger while serving in Vietnam.

"Typically on Saturday or Sunday we'd have a volleyball game at the battalion compound. So everybody's going out to play volleyball. 'Yeah, yeah, I'll be right there with you guys,' and (when) I got a letter from my wife I typically sat down and jotted down an answer back," Murphey told us.

Murphey had a wife and two children back home in Killeen while he was serving in Vietnam.

Sometimes the soldiers got a little down time but one day was much different than the rest..

"I've always wondered about that because while I was writing that letter back to her we got mortared and nine or 10 of our guys got killed, right there on that volleyball court," he told us, "I don't know what kind of intervention there was that kept me there to make me write that letter back."

It was one of many brushes with danger for Murphey.

But despite that, the passion to serve was in his heart.

"I wanted to go, I wanted to be in the Army, I wanted to follow family tradition, I wanted to go to that war," he told us.

Murphey's father was in the Army and Murphey followed in his footsteps, joining the ROTC at the University of Texas.

As soon he graduated in 1967 he signed up for active duty, sharpening his leadership skills by helping to build up the newly reactivated 6th Infantry Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

"It was a brand new outfit started with a major and 20 lieutenants. We had no equipment. We had a building. We had a few tables and chairs and everything started coming in. Soldiers started coming in, they had to be assigned," Murphey said.

Murphey took on a role not typically filled by lieutenants as the major doled out assignments.

"I wrote my name by B Battery commander, that was the captain's job. By golly no captain showed up and I got it," he explained.

And he went to jump school and Ranger school before heading to Vietnam in March 1969.

He was part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a forward observer.

"You are the eyes of the artillery, you are the guy who calls fire support for them so when they get into trouble you get on the radio and you get some artillery in there," he told us.

And while out on search and destroy missions they were ambushed by the Viet Cong.

"Time kind of stands still, the adrenaline or whatever it is, everything rushes up," he said.

Murphey was never hit but his commander was.

Murphey told us, "I was never farther away from him than I am from you right now, he got three Purple Hearts in that period of time."

He looks back and wonders how he was never injured.

"All you can do is think about it, what could it have been, just luck, maybe, intervention, I don't know," Murphey told us.

But despite the risk and time away from family he was proud to serve.

Murphey told us, "you miss them and you want to see them, it's on your mind, you can't get away from it, it tugs at your heart. But on the other hand you're on a mission."