INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Bobble Sam, a pint-sized plastic replica of a local service member, became an online sensation as he traveled the world taking selfies and hobnobbing with celebrities. But now, the soldier it was based on is home from Iraq to take his place.
The doll came on the scene as a stand-in for Sam Giltner during family functions and vacations.
“I’m glad it made it a little easier for the kiddos," said Giltner of his three children. “He was having a great time and actually became a pretty good hit amongst the soldiers. A number of them were following Bobble Sam, and the adventures, and would come taunt me about it because he was having a much better time than I was.”
His fame quickly spread on social media when Bobble Sam was snapped in selfies with nearly every Indy 500 driver, Andrew Luck and Tyler Trent.
“It was something we never dreamed that would happen," Rachel Giltner said of her husband's stand-in.
The real Sam briefly upstaged his plastic counterpart when he appeared on the news in a selfie with the President. He and the first lady were on a surprise visit overseas.
“We are kind of sitting there then all of a sudden president trump walks in the door," Sam Giltner said. "That became famous for at least 24 hours."
Now the viral warrior comes home for the first time in many months.
“It's the third time I’ve deployed and come home, and each time is harder, and more exciting to come home nerves are up," Giltner said.
Sam and his family are back in Texas where he is stationed. While Giltner was gone, Bobble Sam went with the family to get ice cream on the first of every month to celebrate another safe month of real Sam's deployment. This time the real Sam took his kids out.
“My hopes are that all of the bobbleheads go into retirement somewhere, and never need to come back out," Rachel Giltner said.