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Ted Lane Sampley left Wilmington, North Carolina and joined the United States Army in 1963 when he was seventeen years old. He went through Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training and Airborne School.
In June 1964, he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade on the island of Okinawa.
On May 5,1965, Sampley was deployed to Vietnam with the 173rd, where he served as a combat infantryman until April 1966. He participated in combat operations in the Iron Triangle, War Zone D, Ben Cat, the Ho Bo Woods and other areas of South Vietnam.
In April 1966, Sampley was reassigned to 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
After being chosen to be trained as a Green Beret (United States Army Special Forces), Sampley was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa.
In 1968, Sampley was one of a handful of American soldiers chosen to attend the British Jungle Warfare School in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Sampley was trained for eight weeks by British, Australian and New Zealand instructors in the "art of jungle warfare," including methods of visually tracking humans in the jungle. While in Malaysia, Sampley was required to wear British uniform because the British at that time did not want to publicize that they were training U.S. soldiers to fight in Vietnam.
While in Okinawa, Sampley took advantage of his off duty time to study ceramics and the many traditions, designs, techniques, and forms of handcrafted Okinawan pottery. Local craftsmen contributed a wealth of knowledge for Sampley, allowing him to eventually create his own distinctive works.
In 1969, he was reassigned to 5th Special Forces Group, Vietnam.
In Vietnam, Staff Sergeant Sampley served as company commander of a B-36 Mike Force, Civilian Irregular Defense Group Company (CIDG), assigned to operate along the Cambodian border. During that year of combat service, Sampley was awarded four Bronze Stars, the Army Commendation Medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
In 1970, Sampley was reassigned to the 3rd and later the Sixth Special Forces Groups at Fort Bragg where he continued his military training.
Sampley's training in the Army included Operations and Intelligence, methods of prisoner of war interrogation, escape and evasion training, guerrilla warfare training, understanding, the Viet Cong infrastructure, High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachuting. He had a working knowledge of two languages, Arabic and Japanese.
From 1971 to 1973,. Sampley worked during his off-duty time as a volunteer for Americans Who Care, a POW/MIA group in Fayetteville, N.C., that was lobbing for the safe return of all U.S. POWs held by the communists in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
After 10 years of service, Sampley left the Army with a Honorable Discharge in 1973.
Sampley returned to Wilmington where he worked for a television station and then a local weekly newspaper. He eventually succumb to the lure of pottery and built his own kiln and began teaching pottery. He soon established a production pottery business called The Potters Wheel and began mass producing good quality functional and decorative glazed stoneware.
He exhibited his version of a hand turned clay piggy bank at the Atlanta Merchandising Market. Stuffed in small burlap bags, Sampley's Pig-in-a-Poke banks became an immediate hit. Within two years "The Potters Wheel" had produced and sold nearly 90 thousand pieces of handcrafted pottery all marked with either a PW (The Potters Wheel) or TLS for Ted Lane Sampley.
Sampley's "whimsical" Pig-in-a-Poke banks were featured beside some of North Carolina's most prominent potters in the 1980 April/May issue of Country Living Magazine. The magazine article was headlined North Carolina's Country Potters.
In 1983, after he became aware that Hanoi had not released all living American POWs in 1973, Sampley became re-involved as a POW/MIA activist demanding for the U.S. government to put more pressure on Hanoi to either release the men or explain what happened to them.
Sampley has led many demonstrations in Washington, D.C demanding that both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments account for the U.S. servicemen known to have been alive in captivity but never released. He was honored for "Exemplary Service To Veterans" by the Washington, D.C. based National Vietnam Veterans Coalition on May 6, 1985, in New York at the Coalition's Leadership Breakfast.
On April 17, 1988, Mayor Buddy Ritch of Kinston, North Carolina, gave special recognition to Sampley for an "excellent job and continued interest in and service to the handicapped."
In October of 1988, Sampley led a group of activists into communist Laos, where they handed out leaflets offering a reward for missing U.S. servicemen. Two of the group were captured by the communists and held for 41 days. Sampley was detained by Thai authorities for illegally crossing back into Thailand from Laos.
During Kinston's "All American City" celebration, Sampley was awarded a "Key to Kinston" as recognition for his support for Kinston.
Sampley is publisher/editor/writer of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch. He was appointed chairman of the non-profit Last Firebase Veterans Archives Project in 1988. That group created one of the largest collections of privately held POW/MIA files.
From 1986 to 2003, the Last Firebase kept a non-stop, manned 24-hour vigil for POW's and MIAs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Sampley testified in 1991 before the Senate Select Committee of POW/MIA Affairs.
The Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce gave Sampley special recognition in December, 1991 for his help in the restoration of Kinston's historic downtown.
North Carolina's Raleigh News and Observer honored Sampley on September 28, 1992 as their "Tar Heel of the Week and member of a very special group of North Carolinians who have contributed their time, skills and talents toward making North Carolina a truly great state and a wonderful place to live."
After conducting many hours of research, Sampley found compelling evidence proving that the remains buried in the tomb of the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery belonged to Air Force Lt. Michael Blassie. It was evidence that Sampley said the Pentagon had deliberately overlooked.
Sampley first made the Unknown Soldier's identity public in the July 1994 issue of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch.
Five years later (1999), the U.S. government under pressure from CBS television finally used a DNA sample and confirmed that the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier was indeed Lt. Blassie. A military honor guard returned Lt. Blassie's remains to his family in St. Louis, Missouri where he was buried again with full military honors in a national cemetery.
In February 1996, Sampley was nominated for the Kinston Free Press "Citizen of the Year" award. The Free Press cited Sampley for the "good work" he was doing in the community.
VietNow, a national veteran's organization, named Sampley Veteran of the Year. He was also named Citizen of the Year by the Wheat Swamp Ruitan Club of Lenoir County. He is a founding member of the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families and is one of their annual guest speakers.
Sampley is a co-founder of Kinston's annual Salute to Veterans celebration. He is currently heading up two community service programs in Kinston: The building of a 158 foot replica of Kinston's Civil War ironclad CSS Neuse and the National Walk of Honor for Veterans.
Sampley is currently Vice President of Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally Washington, D.C. He is one of the original founders of the 18 year-old veterans organization. Last year nearly a half million veterans and Rolling Thunder supporters attended the annual rally in the nation's capital.
Rolling Thunder has developed into Washington's largest annual Special Event.
Sampley continues his pottery focusing primarily on creating face jugs.
He resides in Kinston, North Carolina email@example.com