Milton ‘Sam’ Sampson prefers to work with people rather than weeds, grass and trees, he said, which is why he didn’t stay retired long.

Sampson, 79, left behind 40 years of working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, in 2007, only to find himself back at work at the Fort Leavenworth military hospital, Munson Army Health Center.

“I retired for about three months and went back to work,” the Air Force veteran said. “I contracted and went to a [Veterans Affairs] hospital in Iowa City for four months then came to Fort Leavenworth army post, and I’ve been up here for about four to five years working at the military hospital.”

His work in the health care field dates back to 1954 when he started as a laboratory and X-ray technician, he said. It wasn’t until 1956, he said, that he thought it would be fun to be an anesthetist.

“In 1956 I went to the University of Iowa and got a degree in nursing,” he said. “In ’61, I went into anesthesia when I was in the military.”

In 1957, Sampson was drafted and joined the Air Force, where it just so happened they were in need of nurses and anesthetists, he said.

“During the Vietnam War, I was state-side,” he said. “At that time, I was in the Air Force, and they didn’t have Air Force hospitals in Vietnam.”

He came to Ottawa with his wife, Kitty, after his time in the Air Force, he said. Sampson’s sister, who lived in Princeton at the time, said they were in need of nurses and anesthetists in Ottawa.

“[Ransom] seemed like it was a nice hospital and was about what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted a small community and my folks lived in Oklahoma and Kitty’s folks lived in Iowa, so we were halfway in between.”

Working at Munson Army Health Center is a little different than working at Ransom, he said. There are no on-calls, no weekends and no holidays — and he gets to work with the soldiers.

“It’s probably the most rewarding experience I’ve had because I’m working with soldiers who have spent time and time again in Iraq and Afghanistan and some have post-traumatic stress problems, but you really feel like you’re helping these people,” Sampson said. “It’s rewarding taking care of guys who put their life on the line to have all the freedoms we have. And they are so grateful.”

Sampson splits his time between living in Ottawa and working at Fort Leavenworth, he said, and likely plans to retire in 2015 when his contract is up.

“I signed up through 2015 so after that I may just decide to do something,” he said. “I have about four acres outside of Ottawa with all kinds of fruit trees and rose gardens and vegetable gardens, so I have plenty to do I guess.”