By now, my April 23 column will have been published by the PineandLakes Echo Journal. I wanted to share it again, here, where I can also share photos. I hope nobody minds that I borrowed from their Facebook feeds, but I thought it might be fitting.
In addition, visit the following links to see some things from Sam’s perspective.
Remember to support your veterans
There have been some rough days in the past few years. I know that during the roughest of those, good memories have helped me. For some people, the memories aren’t so good, so this might not be an option.
I often think back when my family lived next to the Legion in Backus. Our house was nearly a recreation parlor, with friends coming and going constantly. Among them was Sam Sater, who lived within a short biking distance.
I didn’t always see eye to eye with Sam back then. He was very smart, I believe he was even skipped ahead in school, and he always seemed to have A’s, even when he spent most time slacking with us. That intelligence translated to quick witt, and I didn’t like even mild teasing. Even so, he was one of Brent’s best friends, so he was a regular presence at the house.
There were plenty of hours spent either in the driveway shooting hoops, in the basement playing video games or sitting at our chain link fence chatting with the neighbors. Sam was almost guaranteed to be there for most of them.
I remember that Sam was a very outgoing person. I remember once he did a free rap battle against someone in my grade, much to the entertainment of a large crowd of kids gathered in the gym where it took place. From a distance, it looked like a fight, but they threw nothing but words.
When we moved out of the house by the legion, Sam and Brent seemed even closer. Brent was Sam’s ride to school almost every day, and we were late almost every day because of it. We, of course, didn’t mind delaying the inevitable school days.
It was Sam that gave Brent his first flat tire in his Pontiac 6000. Sam didn’t have his license yet, but Brent let him drive down a dirt road out past Oshawa. He didn’t hear Brent warn him about a sharp curve in the road, so Sam took it going 30…and launched the car into a nicely plowed and planted field. They bounced off a huge rock and heard a loud hiss. They jumped out of the car, apparently expecting something catastrophic. They looked back and watched the car slump from the blown tire.
We were mischievous, and Sam was always there to make those times more fun. He was enthusiastic and funny. Though he occasionally got in trouble (what teenager doesn’t?) Sam had a true heart of gold.
After graduating, Sam said he would join the Army reserve. Even when a friend who joined with him got out, Sam stuck in the service. He always did what he said he would do, even when that meant going to the middle-east.
He deployed to active duty twice. I remember a story he told about going through some sort of security dressed in his full combat uniform. The security there had to wand him to check him for weapons he might be concealing. Sam said it was one of the stupidest things he had ever been through, because at the time he had a loaded M16 hanging over his shoulder, just like all the other soldiers going through the same check. The irony was not wasted on Sam.
Sam came back from the service slightly subdued. For the most part, he was still the funny, smart individual he always was, but over time, his service must have eaten at him. He, like many others, came back with post traumatic stress syndrome (another vet once pointed out there is nothing unnatural about reacting to the horrors of war in this way, so syndrome is more fitting than disorder). Within the last year, the affects of the syndrome were more evident in his Facebook posts. He still fought hard, but in a way, his memories were poisoned and likely not much use in his battle.
Sam’s younger sister, who he always cared so much for, announced over the weekend that Sam had died on April 17, a casualty of a war he fought so many years ago. There is some comfort knowing the battle is over for him and he can rest.
My opinion of him changed over time, and by the time he joined the military, I not only got along with Sam, I respected him immensely because not everyone can do what he did, and he was going risk so much.
I know today isn’t Veteran’s Day or any other holiday honoring our veterans, but I think of how often we feel thankful to anyone, soldiers especially, but we don’t put those thoughts into words, and we should. It almost certainly would not have cured him, but I’m sure it would not have hurt if more people (myself included) had told Sam how grateful they were, and offered him what little assistance they could have.
There are still plenty of veterans out there suffering, including from Pine River and the surrounding area. They could sure use some words of support.
On my behalf, I’d like to say thank you to our vets. I’ll be praying for all of them, but especially my friends who fought, Sam and his family.