Colonel (Ret.) Sam Johnson served in the Air Force for 29 years as a highly decorated fighter pilot. He flew combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was a POW in Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton for nearly seven years. He flew 62 combat missions in his F-86, and during his 25th combat mission on April 16th of 1966, he was shot down over North Vietnam. Johnson suffered a broken right arm, dislocated right shoulder and a broken back. Enemy captors would use these injuries in their constant efforts to extract information from him. Later forced into solitary confinement, Johnson committed 374 names to memory by tapping a special code on the prison wall. “We were all trying to memorize names in case anybody got out,” Johnson remembers. A decorated combat veteran and war hero, Johnson was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, and four Air Medals.
After completing a distinguished Air Force career, he started a home building business from scratch and was later elected as a congressman for the Third District in Texas.