Former Vet Center Director named WVVA Hometown Hero
Bluefield, WV - (WVVA-TV) Dr. Sam Heflin’s retirement from the U.S. Army in the late 1970′s was the start of a new career helping fellow veterans readjust to civilian life. Heflin served in Vietnam and knew he needed to do something to cope with his memories from that war zone, “I sought counseling in terms of being, you know, going to school, so I would learn what was going on with me. So I, you know, went to college and got a PhD and a masters and two, a couple of bachelor’s degrees because I was interested in not only once I got help for myself, I was interested in giving it back.” said Heflin. Heflin went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the newly created Vet Centers as a counselor and completed his education.
In 1988 Dr. Heflin accepted the job as the director of the Vet Center in Princeton. Danny Alvis, one of the veterans Dr. Heflin counseled, nominated Heflin as a Hometown hero, writing, “...Over the years Sam has helped many vets overcome many of our problems and become much better citizens. I never heard one veteran say a negative word about him...” Alvis wrote. We shared the nomination letter with Dr. Heflin, “Well, that’s nice of him to say that. I never consider myself as a hero, but I’ll, you know, the thing is that I can identify with where they were. I was there, myself, you know, I served in Vietnam. And the thing they were experiencing, I was experiencing.” said Heflin, adding that the group sessions with veterans in Princeton served as a two-way street. He got as much out of it as he put into it, “So they was not only getting help from me, but I was getting help from them. You know what I mean? In the sense that when we talked, you know what I mean, some of the catharsis of what they were saying, sometimes, see, it’s like you’re trying to build a bridge, you know, to sanity. And what happened is, you don’t have all the pieces. I don’t care how much schooling you have, you don’t have all the pieces, but somebody within the group has a little piece here, a little piece there, and so we pieced together lives, and I got my pieces. They got from me sometimes, but I got something from them to help me to build, you know, my life.” said Heflin.
Dr. Heflin retired from the Vet Center in 2018 and says it was his service in the military that instilled the instinct to reach out to his band of brothers and sisters in arms to help them readjust to life outside their branch of service, “That’s the way the military is, you never leave a person on the battlefield. You never leave a comrade on the battlefield, and I saw that as a veteran and I saw that as a director, the correlation between that, was unreal. You know what I mean in the sense that, I had an opportunity to do what I did while I was on active duty to help my comrades.” said Heflin, adding the veterans he served in Mercer County let him know he was helping them, " Many times some has come to me and told me, Sam, if it hadn’t been for you, I’d be dead. I said, well, I don’t feel like you would be. They said, yeah, I would have took my life. And I said, well, I feel, you know, I need to do, to do this work.” Heflin said. That need to help is what makes Dr. Sam Heflin a WVVA Hometown Hero.
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