Vietnam Veteran Lives on Raft to Raise Money for Program

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He said the program will be for veteran rehabilitation. So far, he has only $500. Vet said the program will be for veteran rehabilitation. So far, he has only $500. 
by Andy Newman

Left, Vietnam War veteran Bill Sampsel talks on a cell phone on Saturday while living on a raft anchored off the Florida Keys near Marathon. He is raising money to build a facility to help veterans rehabilitate.

MARATHON – A Vietnam War veteran has been living round-the-clock on a raft off the Florida Keys to raise funds for a program he hopes to create for other veterans.

Bill Sampsel, 55, has entered the final week of the monthlong fundraising scheme. He boarded the 12-by-16-foot wooden raft on March 30 and has not been on land since. On Sunday, the raft was anchored in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 yards off of the Seven Mile Bridge…

     

Sampsel wants to raise between $6 million and $11 million to build a facility in the Keys to conduct eight-week rehabilitation programs for veterans. So far he has been frustrated because, despite donations from corporations and local businesses to help build and provision the raft, as of Sunday morning he had amassed only $500.

Sampsel, who manages a recreational vehicle and trailer park, said he wants to model his program on the same kind of effort that helped him recover after Vietnam.

He spends his days fishing, answering e-mail on a solar-powered, wireless-connected laptop computer and talking to potential donors via cell phone. He goes to the bathroom in a bucket and local captains visit the raft to transport the waste back to shore for proper disposal.

"It's kind of boring," said Sampsel. "But the need grows as veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan."


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