For those traveling along US1 highway, you may notice a raft just off the 7 mile bridge.
There, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, William Sampsel, has been living on the raft for nearly a month trying to bring attention to the plight of veterans in need in the Florida Keys.
He has a website with a live webcam located at http://www.veteranonaraft.com/
Here is a copy of the press release I received from his organization, Veterans Haven, Inc:
William Sampsel, a 2 tour 5 time wounded decorated Vietnam War Veteran, has been aboard a raft for over 26 days. His cause is to raise awareness and funds as well as gain support for his dream.
After returning from Vietnam in 1972, Mr. Sampsel struggled for decades trying to get help from our government run veterans system. He was turned away, ignored, and worse. He found himself homeless and depressed.
In the mid-nineties after struggling with alcohol and medications, he met his wife, Mary, and his life started to make a change for the better. He and his wife traveled the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. They spent their days boating, fishing, diving and just relaxing.
Along the way, they met many Veterans who shared experiences. The recreation of fishing, swimming, diving, and boating while sharing his experiences with fellow veterans and being surrounded by the relaxation offered by the sheer beauty of the Caribbean and Florida Keys finally put Mr. Sampsel back on his feet.
After their journey, they settled in the Florida Keys. Together they started a charter fishing business, Wild Willy Charters located in Vaca Key, Marathon. It wasn't until 2004, Mr. Sampsel finally received the Bronze Star of Valor. That was 32 years after he earned it for a mission in which a platoon member died in his arms. Remembering that fallen solder spurred Mr. Sampsel to dedicate himself to our forgotten veterans. Soon after Hurricane Wilma Mr. And Mrs. Sampsel took over management of Whispering Pines campground in Grassy Key.
At their own expense, they purchased two mobile homes and began housing veterans in need. He took them fishing, boating, sightseeing, etc. Sometimes he just sat and just listened to their experiences. It was just what he did himself to get it all together. Well fed with a with roof over their heads and a relaxed mind, Mr. Sampsel began helping these veterans find jobs. After spending well over $10,000 of their own money helping veterans in need, the Sampsels knew they needed outside support. Veterans Haven, a Florida registered non-profit organization, was born.
Mr. Sampsel has a dream. He wants to build a facility in the Florida Keys for veterans in need. This facility will not be a permanent home for any one veteran but a retreat for any veteran in need from anywhere in the United States. An eight week program is what Mr. Sampsel is envisioning. A program based on what Mr. Sampsel himself did to recover, and what he has done for veterans with his own money. Veterans Haven will temporarily house these veterans in need. It will provide them with the recreation of fishing, swimming, diving, and boating while sharing their
experiences with fellow veterans and being surrounded by the relaxation offered by the sheer beauty of the Florida Keys. Veterans Haven's goal is to re-acclimate our veterans in need so they can return to civilian life as hard workers or hard working business owners.
Mr. Sampsel is now living on a raft anchored just off the Seven-Mile Bridge.
The live webcam can be found at http://www.veteranonaraft.com.
"Please carefully consider how you will support our vets and do so."
Veterans Haven, Inc,
Marathon, Florida 33050
Phone: 1 877 743 4801
305 289 1606
I encourage you to visit his site and support his efforts.
And THANK YOU Mr. Sampsel. We all owe you a debt of appreciation for your service and continuing support of veterans.