US Mountain Ranger Association

Promoting fellowship & brotherhood among US Army Rangers
Sam Bird

Maj. Sam Bird was born 27 Jan 1940, in Wichita, Kansas, and commissioned from the Citadel in 1961 where he served his senior year as the Regimental Executive Officer. He graduated from Ranger School and then Airborne School later that same year. Sam volunteered for duty in Korea. His first assignment was as the Junior Aide de Camp to General Woolnough the 5th Calvary Division Commander. In March 1963, he was assigned to Company A, 1st Group, 3rd Infantry Division (Old Guard). By July he was assigned to the Honor Guard responsible for conducting military funerals. On November 11, 1963, Lt. Bird assisted President Kennedy in laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Little did he know that 11 days later he would be the casket commander for his President's funeral.

Let me share a brief note from the book So Proudly He Served: The Sam Bird Story:

The casket in which President Kennedy was buried was 500 year old African Mahogany and weigh between 800 to 1200 pounds. While carrying the President up the multitude of step of the Capital building, they paused briefly at the base then on Sergeant Felder's nod began to move slowly forward, one step at a time. Four steps before the first landing, Sam sensed a slight tremor in their gait and leaned forward to brace the head of the casket by sliding his hands beneath the corners and taking the weight. Little did he realize that not only had he taken some of the strain from the other members of the team but he also unwittingly provided a symbolic gesture of reassurance to the helpless millions holding their breath as they watched every detail of the upward journey unfold on the television sets.

The casket commander's protocol dictated the he was "to remain a distance away from the casket and ensure that protocol was followed by the casket team." Sam Bird saw his men in need and did what it took to ensure the dignity of his men, his President, and his nation.

This attitude was carried to Vietnam where in July 1966 he assumed command of B Company 2/12, 1st Calvary Division. His leadership in the company was an inspiration to everyone who served during that time. On his 27 birthday, 27 January 1967, a mission was suddenly received for B Company to conduct an air assault onto LZ Trout, near Bong Son. LZ Trout was intensely prepped with artillery. As the airlift approached the LZ, higher command ordered the assault moved to an unprepped LZ nearby. The LZ turned out to be surrounded by a well dug-in and prepared NVA Battalion. Captain Bird received a head wound from a machine gun bunker located 30 feet from where he exited the aircraft. Sam Bird never questioned the decision to change LZs. He would only say, "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Sam Bird spent the remainder of his life in a wheel chair and ultimately succumbed to those wounds on 18 October 1984. Sam Bird is a true example of what a Ranger is supposed to be.

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