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Newton has 27-year career in Army, National Guard

VALLEY — Sammy Newton, the first vice commander of American Legion Post 67, had a 27-year career in the U.S. Army and National Guard. He is grateful for the opportunity to serve our country and to learn skills that led to employment opportunities after he’d retired from active duty.

Newton grew up in the River View community. He’s one of five sons raised by the late Rayford and Frances Newton. A year after graduating from high school in 1968 he received his draft notice.

“My oldest brother, Eddie, was in the Army at the time,” he recalled. “He was in Germany when I was in basic training at Fort Benning. That was in the summer of 1969. It was during the time of the first manned moon landing. I remember watching that on TV when we were training.”

From Fort Benning, Newton was sent to Fort Polk, La., for intensive infantry training. He remembers coming back home to River View on a 15-day leave in late November when the training was completed.

“I was with the 5th Infantry Division,” he said. “We were sent to Quang Tri in Vietnam. I was there for 14 months. That’s two months longer than a normal tour of duty.”

Like most soldiers, he had some harrowing escapes and lost some good friends while in a war zone. He was glad to make it back home to civilian life for a time, but with military service in his blood he signed up for National Guard duty only five months after leaving the Army.

“The National Guard was good to me,” he said. “I was in it for more than 25 years. I had the opportunity to go to school and learn new skills. For six years I was with a maintenance company in Dadeville. I was also with the National Guard in Roanoke and in Valley. I retired as a sergeant first class in 1996.”

The skills he learned prepared him for employment in the private sector.

“I then worked for a West Point Project contractor for 13 years,” he said. “They liked it that I had computer skills and had experience in taking inventory.”

Newton married a local girl, the former Mary Sue Waller of the Fairfax community. They have a grown daughter, Kim Osborn, who lives in the Opelika area. They are very proud of their three granddaughters, Samantha, Emma and Mary Elizabeth. Samantha is a freshman at Auburn University, Emma is in middle school and Mary Elizabeth in elementary school in Opelika.

“I have been with the local Legion post for 17 years now,” Newton said. “I have really enjoyed the experience, and I think we have done some good things on behalf of local veterans.”

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