Lance Corporal Sams was a bit off the beaten path, but a good Marine and a great friend. Tall and gangly with a shaved head, he was a country boy as pale as they come. When he wasn’t in uniform, you could catch him wearing Phat Pharm and FUBU around the base. A born prankster, you would be hard pressed to find Sams without a smile or cracking a corny joke that received more eye rolls and sighs than genuine laughter, but everyone knew he was cool. That was Sams.
When our unit of Military Police Officers (MP’s) was activated in January 2003, Sams was one of the only Marines who wasn’t an MP (he was a cook) who got called to pick up a weapon and join the fight. And he did. He got to experience the wonder of coming back onto U.S. soil and it’s astounding greenery (you’d notice it more too if you’d spent a year in the desert). We were home, and everything was good.
Until two weeks later, when Sams took a swan dive out of a five story window.
He didn’t make it. He didn’t fall on the field of battle, but he’s worth remembering just as much as any other fallen soldier on Memorial Day.
Sams and I served on post a lot together. We did some not so bright things to ward away boredom in Kuwait like having a water drinking contest while we still had two hours of watch remaining. BAD IDEA when you can’t leave your post. Or getting into a wrestling match in the cafeteria tent while the Kuwaiti workers howled with laughter. The laughter grew more persistent from all parties when Sams’ foot went through the crappy wooden floor.
Then there was a time where one of Sams’ shenanigans took an unexpected turn. The shotty radio broken and nothing else to do but let humvees in and out of the sandy base, Sams took to throwing rocks past my head. I wasn’t facing him, but I could hear the rocks whizzing past my ear. Agitated, I turned to tell him to knock it off and got as far as “would you knock i—ooof!”. A rock connected with my forehead. I put my hand up to my head (which was covered by a boonie hat) and blood was already soaked through. I took off the hat and the blood came a-pourin. Thanks Sams. By the time the doc got there and Sams was ready to spill the beans on how I got beaned, I quickly told the doc that I fell. On my face. Why didn't I break my fall? Well, my hands were full, naturally. Needless to say, Sams was thankful for his avoiding a butt roasting by the platoon sergeant.
On one of our nightly rounds of patrolling our makeshift base, Sams was talking to me about how things were going out here. He knew that I was having a rough time with some personal issues and without judging or prying, he simply said, “You know Wolf, if you ever need me for anything, I’m here.”
Thinking of it now makes my throat constrict. I don’t know what caused him to end his life, but in the spirit of his good nature, I too will be there for him, at least to honor his memory proudly.