Vietnam Veteran helps others struggling with personal battles

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 11:00 AM CDT
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LAREDO, TX. (KGNS) - Little to no support was given to Vietnam War Veterans after coming home.

Samuel Ruben Ayala was just one of many having to deal with the trauma he experienced in the battlefield.

He’s a purple heart recipient and for the last few years he’s helped other veterans through their own personal battles.

Sam Ayala’s mission has always been to help those in need; a journey which began over 50 years ago.

When he was 18-years-old he was drafted into the army and was later transferred to Vietnam.

The memories of the battlefield are still haunting to this day.

Ayala says, “It was very upsetting emotionally. I was very happy that I was back alive. The government had sent us. We had a job to do. I did what I had to do to maintain myself alive.”

The journey home was another heartache.

He remembers a passenger who knew he was coming home from Vietnam and refused to sit next to him on the flight home.

Ayala says the passenger asked to be move because she did not want to be close to him. She called him names like baby killer and used vulgar language.

He tried putting his past behind him but the trauma he experienced continued to linger.

Sam says for a while he didn’t even want to leave his house.

Those closest to him didn’t know about his military career.

Ayala says, “My son told me “Dad, there’s a movie about Vietnam, he says were you ever in the military?” I looked at him like I didn’t want to answer and he said “You were?” this was when I took out the uniform and showed him.”

Life went on, Sam worked as a restaurant manager before joining the Laredo Police Department for ten years.

He served his community working as a licensed chemical dependency counselor and later joined the Webb County Probation Department and then became a counseling coordinator for the 406 District Drug Court. But in the veterans program, he knew it was different.

Sam says, “It’s very particular, guided for veterans who are coming in with a stigma. With their own reasons for being what they are. Stigmas that I relate to them.”

Other veterans needing help – felt at ease talking to him.

Sam says they would feel comfortable expressing themselves, because they both shared similar experiences.

Sam helped veterans with counseling, dealing with anger and most importantly he held classes helping veterans with communication skills.

“They would tell me. You know sir, I would never talk to my wife. This is the first time I let out and I feel better”, said Sam.

Despite all the obstacles he faced, he tells others to stay positive and if anything goes wrong don’t drop it.

Sam retired as a counseling coordinator in 2019.

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