We Were Soldiers
Samuel Warner, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, began his military service in 1959 in the Naval Reserve, active duty in naval aviation.
He had been attending Valley College and working full time and figured the Naval Reserve would provide a rest.
“I got out, and forgot to go to meetings. A couple guys came down looking for me,” he said. “They gave me a choice; go to jail or go back into the service.”
Choosing to go back into the service, he found himself in Houston, TX with the choice of either the Army or the Marines.
He was told that the Army Special forces were the group that ran the bowling alleys and clubs as the Red Cross did for the Navy.
Warner went to Louisiana for boot camp and advanced infantry training. After boot camp he was stationed at Fort Benning for jump school where he asked his superiors, “Why do I need all this training if I’m going to run a bowling alley?” The Army’s explanation was not to worry about it.
In 1963, at the age of 21, he was sent to Vietnam as a Special Forces advisor in the Military Assistance Advisory Group, north of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.
In 1965 a friend recommended he join Hale Moore’s command the 7th Cavalry, which became the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
Warner describes his experience in the Battle of La Drang Valley in the 3rd Platoon, “It was like you wouldn’t believe, it was like Second World War combat.”
The Battle of La Drang Valley inspired the book “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.” The book was then used as the basis for the movie “We Were Soldiers.” Mel Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore.
Warner describes Moore, “He’s a ballsy guy. He treated all his men not like they were sons but as younger brothers. He trained all his people from the private on up, so that each one could do the job of people at least four positions higher.”
A month later Warner was involved in the Battle of Bong Son, the second major battle for the division after La Drang Valley.
Warner described what happened when he approached a bridge during the battle, “Instead of running to the back to our troops, I ran forward. I ran across a bridge, my feet never even touched the ground. Turned out the bridge was mined. Because I moved everybody forward I received the Silver Star.”
Warner and seven others were behind a large ant hill when he was wounded in the head by a bullet, sending him back to the United States to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco.
After recovering, he was sent back to Vietnam with the 199th Infantry Brigade. Warner was sent around Vietnam stationed from place to place for the years that followed.
After the war, he spent time at Ranger School. When asked when he left the Army he said, “You never leave the service, you see these bumper stickers ‘once a Marine always a Marine,’ it’s the same thing.”
When asked what he thinks about Memorial Day and how the day is celebrated today he said, “Those individuals that have paid the price, have received nothing but denigration.”
Warner added, “A number of veterans that have been hurt, both in combat, aboard ships and in airplanes received nothing. They had to fight to get what ever they got. That is not right.”
Offering a solution to raise awareness of veteran’s plight, he suggested taking school history classes to veteran hospitals and graves.
Samuel Warner is a member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans Association and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
He will be attending Memorial Day services at Eternal Valley and Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall.