To Protect and Serve

A Special Tribute to Valley Veteran and President of the VMLC Sam Young

What led you to enlist in the U.S. Air Force?

My father proudly served his country for 25 years both in the Army and Air Force—in WWII, Korea and the Cold War. As an Aeronautics Engineering major, I enrolled in Air Force Reserve Officer Training and entered the Air Force in 1966 at a time when the Vietnam War was beginning to escalate.

What areas of service were you in?

My eye sight precluded me from flying, so I entered into the Management Engineering career field. This lead to assignments in Alaska, Europe, the Pentagon and various locations in the U.S. My final assignment was at Luke Air Force Base as the Mission Support Group (Base) Commander.

What was one of your most memorable experiences while serving in the U.S. Air Force?

While serving in the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington D.C., I attended the Congressional Medal of Honor presentation by President Reagan to Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez for his gallantry in Vietnam. President Reagan actually read the citation before presenting the Medal of Honor. It was an incredible privilege to be there.

What was one of your proudest moments?

When I joined the Air Force in 1966, my father, a veteran of 25 years, was the Commencement Speaker and he personally pinned on my Second Lieutenant bars.

How did serving in the U.S. Air Force help you grow as a person?

The Air Force challenged me with increased responsibilities at a young age, which helped build confidence and new opportunities to excel. It also provided and encouraged higher education in organization, management and international affairs.

What did you learn from your experience and bring back from serving our country?

Integrity and team work. The mission is paramount and everyone needs to pull together to get it done.  You learn to lean on one another, but to also take care of each other to accomplish the mission. Terms like “please and thank you” work very effectively in the military and corporate world.

How did you become involved with Veterans Medical Leadership Council?

Although already volunteering elsewhere, after 9-11 I joined the VMLC to help give back to the military men and women who have bravely served our country but who have fallen on hard times.

How does the VMLC’s mission resonate with your own personal philosophy?

Once you’re part of the military team, you don’t forget those you’ve served with. While you can’t do everything, you do what you can. The VMLC consists primarily of Veterans who have proudly served their country during times of combat and have seen their comrades go through tough times and want to help.

As young service members began returning from Iraq/Afghanistan, VMLC founded its Returning Warrior (RW) program to assist those trying to get their lives back on track. Whether repairing broken vehicles needed to keep medical appointments, or get to work, pay utility bills or help keep a roof over a family’s head, the VMLC works with hospital case workers to help where it can. It is thanks to the generosity of community corporations, businesses and patriotic individuals that the RW program is able to make a difference. They are also a key member of our team to help veterans!

A few words on the pride you feel for this country and having served it?

It was a privilege and honor to serve my country, and to help protect the freedom we enjoy.  Over the years, I served with men and women who took pride in their country and always gave it their best. It is important to never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I have special respect for the families who stood by their spouses during long separations and difficult times. They are true heroes.  I would gladly do it again!!

For more information on the VMLC, please visit ArizonaVMLC.org.