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updated: 3/28/2014 7:50 AM

Homeless WWII veteran finds friend

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  • Samuel Wesley Samples, an 88-year-old World War II veteran, at the American Best Value Inn in Marion.

      Samuel Wesley Samples, an 88-year-old World War II veteran, at the American Best Value Inn in Marion.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

MARION -- Shannon Wimberly removed homeless World War II veteran Samuel W. Samples, 88, off the streets, provided him shelter and has begun a fund drive to help him.

"He deserves to live the rest of his days with dignity. That's not asking too much. And, he can afford and knows how to live on his own," Wimberly said about Samples.

Chicago native Samples is currently staying in a Marion motel. He has been living the past year bouncing around from temporary makeshift shelters to temporary motel stays. He gets veterans and Social Security stipends amounting to about $1,000 monthly. Excessive utility costs forced him out of apartments in Marion and Carbondale, where he had previously resided.

The past winter months have been tough as Samples couldn't afford heated quarters.

"You can't live motel-to-motel living on the income I get. No one wants to live outside and freeze to death," Samples said.

Wimberly and his friend, Melanie Shannon, found Samples sitting in his walker on a road off Enterprise Way in east Marion during early evening hours earlier last week.

They stopped to offer assistance. Samples asked for a blanket. Wimberly and Shannon soon learned he was homeless.

They checked him into a local motel for the night. Wimberly worked with Samples the next few days to help find him assistance.

That has included visits to the Marion VA Center. Wimberly learned of Samples' past military record. It has included serving on the Normandy beaches with amphibious support during the Allied invasion and working logistics during the Battle of the Bulge.

Wimberly said he has been a World War II enthusiast much of his life, learning everything he can about it. A new friendship with Samples fuels his passion even more.

"To be with friends with someone like Samples is an honor that goes beyond anything imaginable. My goal is to get him into subsidized housing. I am going to see it to the end," Wimberly said.

He has been raising funds in his assistance effort for Samples through FundRazr, which is accessible through Wimberly's Facebook page.

Samples is grateful for Wimberly coming into his life.

"This man has a big heart. There's no materialistic reward for him doing this. He is interested in veterans who are forgotten about. Many veterans have lost their lives. I'm lucky to be alive," Samples said.

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