JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Few people know the route from Maryville, to Knoxville, to Johnson City, and back better than 82-year old Sam Russell.
“I could go with my eyes closed,” said Russell with a chuckle. Every year for the last 16 years he has driven almost 480 military veterans up to the VA Medical Center in Mountain Home.
“After I retired for the fourth time I just wanted something to do,” said Russell who spotted an ad in the paper requesting volunteer drivers. He has now clocked more than 10,000 hours volunteering to serve fellow veterans through the Veterans Affairs program. He is one of three active volunteers to achieve that milestone according to the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center.
“Sometimes I want to leave it but no, I’m not a quitter,” said Russell. He entered the Army as a teenager and ended up serving two tours in Vietnam. And he has no plans to stop his ongoing service to fellow veterans.
"10,690 (hours)...who knows, I may get another 10,000."
In addition to our on-camera interview, Mr. Russell took time to answer the following 10 questions about the influence his military service has had on the rest of his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
My father influenced me the most as a young person.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Yes, I do now after so many years of hearing negative things when I first came back from Vietnam.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
Seeing people on the street or in a store and them coming up to me and saying, thank you for your service and welcome home. Make you feel good.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
I honor them by taking them to their DR`S appointments every week, and aiding them in any way that I can
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
Today they are better trained and equipped for their mission in today`s conflicts.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
My military service gave me the training and schooling for the future that I would not have had otherwise. I had the opportunity to go to so many diverse schools that I have been able to use in different jobs since retiring from the military.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
Yes, My Father was in the Army 1918 - 21 Coast Artillery in Panama Canal, A younger brother retired from the Marine Corp. Two other brothers joined and were discharged on early medical.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Yes, I would encourage younger members of my family to join and to be the best they could be. I have a Great Grand Daughter that is getting ready to join the Army as a photographer. She has already been approved.
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
My opinion on the war has not changed. I would do it all over again if I had to and never gave any thought about any war while I was in the Army. To me, I was protecting my country and family.
10. How did your military experience shape your religious faith?
My military experience gave me faith in my fellowmen to be there when needed. I could trust them in protecting me as I was protecting them