Introducing Sandy Saupe: Cincinnati VAMC Community Living Center Veteran wins gold medals in wheelchair games
Gilbert ‘Sandy’ Saupe is a hometown hero. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Sandy was called to duty at 18 years old. He served for three years in the U.S. Army; thirteen months of which were served in Vietnam.
Sandy recalls the story of his coming home, “I was scheduled to ship home during the beginning of the Tet Offensive in ’68,” Saupe recalled. “My [commanding officer] entered our hooch and said ’Sorry guys! The plane left without you!’ There was three of us that were supposed to be going home. None of us got there that day. We were sent to Saigon to catch a ride home. Unknown at the time, the North Vietnamese had cut the communication lines. No one knew we were coming, so when we got there, there was no plane home. I had to stay in Saigon for a month to wait for the next plane! I had no change of clothes or anything. You can imagine how I looked when I finally did get on a plane!”
This was very stressful for Saupe, as he was due to be married on March 3, 1968. He finally got a flight to San Francisco, but more bad luck struck. As Saupe was running through the airport to catch his connecting flight, a porter yelled at him saying the plane had already pulled out! He had missed another flight! Quickly reacting, the porter called the plane on the runway and was able to get them to return to the terminal! Saupe was getting his flight! He got to Chicago the next morning at 8 a.m. The first person he called was Carol, his fiancé. After that, he called his father. No one knew Saupe was almost home; he hadn’t been able to make any contact with anyone until then. Saupe said his father was surprised and said, “’What the hell are you doing in Chicago?’” Needless to say, Saupe made it home just in time to marry Carol.
Saupe and his wife have been happily married for 54 years. They have two wonderful children, Heather and Tim. They also have two grandchildren, Megan and Brady.
Saupe was an analytical chemist for 27 years.
“They took a history major and turned him into an analytical chemist,” Saupe said.
Saupe was always involved with his children’s sports. He loved football. He said he never got to play football as a kid.
“Mother wouldn’t allow it since I only weighed 135 pounds soaking wet,” Saupe recalled of his inability to play football as a kid.
So, he officiated high school football for 32 years. He also served as the President of Ohio Valley Football Officials Association for a two-year term.
Saupe came to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center Community Living Center (CLC) in February of 2022. He remembers how shy he was.
“You have the best staff here,” Saupe said. “I was shy when I moved here, but I’ve busted out now.”
He is currently the CLC Resident Council President and said he enjoys being the voice for his fellow Veterans. Saupe also attends multiple activities hosted by the Recreation Department. The most recent activity he participated in is the 2023 Buckeye Wheelchair Games.
“[The Recreation Department staff] first asked me if I’d like to go to Cleveland, and I said I’d have to check with a few people. So, I called Carol,” Saupe said. “At first, she didn’t like the idea, but I explained that there’d be plenty of people there to help us. So, she finally said yes. My daughter Heather chaperoned, and we took Tim along for the heck of it!”
Saupe reported that this was his first time competing in anything like this. He participated in five events, two of which he took home gold medals for. When asked if he plans to compete again, he said, “I think so. I have to defend the gold!”