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Samuel D. Freeman, III

17 Sep 1937 – 7 Jan 1967
Died in Washington, DC
Interred in Mathews, VA

Samuel D. Freeman III

Class Memorial Pages\D-1 Sam Freeman.pdf

SAMUEL DIGGES FREEMAN III was born on 17 September 1937 in Newport News, VA, to Agnes and Samuel Freeman, Jr. Little did they know then that Sam was destined to carry on a family male tradition to serve his country in the military. Sam’s grandfather graduated from USMA in 1883, taught at USMA, and finished a distinguished career at the Citadel in South Carolina. Sam’s father learned to fly in the Army Air Corps but left the military to fly for Pan American Airways. Sam’s maternal grandmother, Nano, was a great influence in shaping his life.

Sam identified strongly with the family tradition and joined the National Guard while still in high school in Westport, CT. Upon graduation in 1956, Sam attended the Citadel in Charleston, SC, for one year during which he captured a competitive National Guard appointment to West Point.

On 1 July 1957, Sam joined the Class of ’61 — “Second to None” — and, with a Citadel freshman year under his belt, sailed through plebe year unscathed. Sam had an academic record many of his classmates only dreamed about as he was particularly skilled in the social sciences and was also an avid and accomplished member of the fencing team.

In 1959, Sam’s life was to change forever. He was reintroduced to a childhood friend, and it was love at first sight. Stephanie Thomas and Sam saw each other as often as possible during his last two years at West Point, and they were married on 1 July 1961.

The Signal Corps was Sam’s choice for his combat arms assignment. After Airborne training at Ft. Benning, GA, it was off to Ft. Monmouth, NJ, for basic schooling and then to Nuremburg and Mannheim, Germany. The year 1962 brought Samuel Digges Freeman IV to the Freeman family, and in 1964 twins Anne and Kristin were born.

In 1965, Sam was reassigned to Headquarters, Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, NC, and transferred to Military Intelligence. After schooling at Ft. Holabird, MD, Sam was reassigned to the 181st MI Det., 101st Airborne Division, and joined them in the Republic of Viet Nam.

On 24 Oct 1966, Sam was making a routine low-level reconnaissance flight in a piloted, single-engine fixed-wing aircraft on his way to visit various Special Forces camps. At some point in the flight, the pilot was unable to maintain power, and the plane came down in a cleared ravine. Sam was able to get out of the aircraft uninjured, until some gasoline from the wing tank splashed on his right side, igniting. Sam ran to a nearby stream, extinguished the flames, and rushed back to the burning plane to find the pilot trapped inside with both legs broken. He quickly slipped under the burning wing and pulled the pilot to safety. He then returned to the plane and continued to radio their position until the rescue helicopter arrived. Sam suffered second degree burns to his right arm and the right side of his face, neck, and chest.

Due to complications from the burns, Sam was evacuated to the Philippines, then to Japan and later Walter Reed, where he succumbed to his injuries on 7 Jan 1967.

Sam’s roommates remember him as a man of principle and high character, with a refined taste and knowledge.

“Sam loved fencing; he always was practicing his moves and stretches on us. Sam’s love for-and expertise in-classical music revealed a higher level of artistic appreciation to us. Many of the songs he played on his state-of-the-art hi-fi are still our favorites. These interests and talents were just part of his refinement. He didn’t drink milk because he knew back then that it contained ‘something that lead to clogging of the arteries.’ He understood the importance of slow, long-distance running, where we thought wind sprints were better for long-term health. Sam’s monograph on the viability of the Middle East revealed his understanding of the area that would have prepared him well for the issues that arose there over the decades.

Sam inspired us to reach for something higher, as he strove for excellence in everything he did. His easygoing style made him the ideal roommate and a very good friend.”

Sam’s sister Loretta remembers their days at Staples High School:

“We went through junior high school and high school together. These were the days of hope, elation, and expectation for Sam and myself. They were wonderful years — dating, confidentialities. Whenever Sam got home later than me, our bantam roosters in the garage would crow, waking Mom and Dad.”

The caption from Sam’s high school year book reads,

“Samuel D. Freeman, III: reticent, loves to read, impeccable dresser, prefers foreign cars, future general at West Point.”

Sam enriched our lives in ways that he never knew. He was a devoted husband and father. His wife Stephanie describes him as,

“a very gentle, loving man with a quite dignity and self-assurance that our son Sam has, along with his father’s code of ethics.”

Sam has two grandsons, Luke and Samuel.

Sam was a true hero. He made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his own life to save the life of another. In doing so, he personified for all of us the essence of “Duty, Honor, Country.” He received the Bronze Star and Soldiers Medal, posthumously.

Words cannot describe the sense of loss that one feels when remembering a friend and classmate who was taken from us so early, but perhaps Gail Burchell, Sam’s roommate for three years at West Point, says it best for all of us:

“I hope his children will be able to get some sense of how great a guy their father was. He was a good friend and confident. I miss him to this day.”

— Family, friends, and classmates

ASSEMBLY, September/October 1999

Legacy Update:

Sam now has 4 grandsons and a granddaughter. 

In addition to Luke and Samuel, his daughter Anne Gallo has since added James Theodore Gallo, born 4-7-2005.  His son Samuel Digges Freeman IV has added Samuel Thomas Freeman, born 2-17-2005 and Lenora Agnes Freeman, born 8-2006 to Sam's legacy.

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