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ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Tania Ortega-Cowan is a photo-journalist who grew up in Indian River County and spent many summers all along Indian River Drive in Sebastian. She remembers Capt. Hiram’s early beginnings and witnessed its soulful evolution into the resort destination it is today. Tania says, “I have focused my entire career covering positive human-interest stories and community heroes, so when my friend and Capt. Hiram’s marketing director Kimball Stadler asked if I wanted to profile some of the Veterans from the Space Coast Honor Flight’s monthly luncheons held at Capt. Hiram’s, I jumped at the chance!” 


Sam Hamilton was born in Shanghai, China and lived the first 9 years of his life there. 

“My dad worked for National City Bank of New York – Far Eastern Division, and so that is why were in China,” he says. “Then the Japanese took over China and we got out of there.”

Once the family was back in the United States, the bank again assigned Hamilton’s father overseas, this time to the Philippines and so Hamilton, his mother and two younger brothers went as well.  

“We got out there February 1941 – not a very good move,” he says. 

“When McArthur declared Manilla an open city, the Japanese rolled in and when they did, they picked up all of the Allied civilians that they could find.”

Hamilton and his entire family were put into an internment camp.

 “I was 11 years old,” he explains. “We were interned for three years and a month. It was tough. An experience and really an adventure for a kid my age, but for my parents it was very humiliating more than anything else. At the end of our internment, because of our starvation diet, we were down to the equivalent of a slice of bread per day.”

Just as he says this, his beautiful fresh salad has arrived. I point out the irony. He just smiles.

“We can wait and talk after you eat,” I say.

He smiles again, not concerned about it, and instead keeps talking about his experiences.

Hamilton says he will be speaking at the US Navy Armed Guard Veterans group in Fellsmere, an organization we first learned about in the previous story on Clarence “Korkey” Korker. Hamilton waves across the room to Korker, motioning him over, and Korker makes his way over to Hamilton’s table.

“I am going to give a talk about our liberation from the internment camp at the next meeting,” he says as Korker arrives to shake his hand. The men talk for a while about plans for the meeting, and then Korker takes off again. Hamilton continues right where he left off.

“Later, I joined the Navy and served in the Korean conflict,” he says. “When I first joined, I went through the Naval Air Cadets. They put us through an all-weather flight program and they didn’t like the way I was flying under the hood, so I got kicked out. It wasn’t bad though because when I asked for Cadet Christmas leave they granted that and I met my wife when I was home on leave.”

Hamilton went on the Honor Flight in June 2012. 

“When I decided I would like to get on the Honor Flight I contacted Sue, the General’s wife,” he says, referring to Sue Welser, SCHF board member and wife of SCHF president Bill Welser. “Since I been a civilian POW, and her dad had been on the Bataan Death March, we connected right away. The Honor Flight was faaaaaaantaaastic. The best thing I ever did in my life. I keep telling Bill (Welser) I want to go again. Once is NOT enough! I am going to re-enlist.” 

Thank you, Sam Hamilton, for your sacrifice and service.

See you next time for a story on veteran Richard “Dick” Crawford.PREVIOUS