Powelton Village: Vietnam Vet Opens Up About Life After War

Sam Hampton, 60, sitting at a desk in the basement office of the Veterans Group in Powelton Village.
Sam Hampton, 60, is a resident of the Veterans Group in Powelton Village.

Sam Hampton, a Vietnam War veteran, never took a moment for granted since his Marine Corps days. In June 1968, the then-18-year-old went to war and has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Sitting in a computer chair in the office of the Veterans Group in Powelton Village, an organization that lends help to veterans dealing with homelessness, Hampton leaned forward, put his head in his hands and contemplated the difficulties of life after war.

“It’s one of them things that’s hard for us to even talk to y’all about,” he said. “A lot of times y’all don’t understand. It’s not your fault. It’s society.”

In North Vietnam in 1969, Hampton was shot in the head with a .50 caliber bullet. The tremendous impact on his helmet made him think he was dead. He kept an old, tattered photocopy of a picture of himself from the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 6, 1969. In the photo, Hampton is joyously looking at the bullet protruding from the helmet that saved his life.

“I thank God for being alive,” he said. “After coming out things were different. I was different.”

Hampton was photographed with the helmet that saved his life after being hit by a bullet. The photo was published in the May 6, 1969, issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

After the war, Hampton dealt with depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation and other symptoms of PTSD. Over the years, he came a long way. The 60-year-old divorced father of four was previously enrolled in a veterans’ program in New York and then moved back to Philadelphia to live with his mother. Shortly after, his therapist from Veterans Affairs referred him to the Veterans Group, where he has lived for nearly two years. He said that he planned to move out in the near future.

Hampton’s experiences were difficult for him to discuss, but by sharing his story, he said that he hoped to improve society’s understanding of veterans. He wanted people to know what he and so many like him were going through.

“It’s something that civilians will never experience, what us veterans have experienced,” he said. “It’s something that you’ll never forget.”

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