He grew to manhood with few advantages. At an early age he enlisted in the United States Regular Army. The hardships of youth had taught him well the lesson of taking care of himself.
Straight as an arrow, with keen, alert, but steady black eyes, black hair, powerfully muscular, but not heavy built, he was a splendid type of the sturdy men who come from the Kentucky mountain counties.
He was not assertive, but almost timid. But his mother was an Abner, and the Abners were among the sturdiest, most reliant stock of the old time families in Perry County.
His quick black eyes and muscular frame came from his mother. He enlisted in the army in 1914 and served on the Mexican border.
In 1917 he was sent to France with the 132d Infantry.
After the war, Sandlin returned to East Kentucky and bought a farm on Owls Nest Creek near Hyden. Sandlin, then 59, died on May 29, 1949, of a lingering lung infection resulting from a poison gas attack on his company in the Battle of the Argonne. He was buried in Hurricane Cemetery near Hyden.
In September 1990 his remains were reburied in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.
Willie"s wife, Belvia Roberts Sandlin, lived to be 96 years old. She died on February 11, 1999.
In 2000, the family of Willie Sandlin donated his Medal of Honor to the Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort.