In 1971, the 14-year-old Sam Khong enlisted as a gunner in the Cambodian Navy. In 1974, at age 17, as a part of a program providing military assistance to Cambodia, Sam was sent to the United
States for additional military training. When the Khmer Rouge took the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in 1975, Sam was in military training in Texas. He could not return to Cambodia.