Remembering Sam Sater

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.

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-942544

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-921569

http://m.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2014/0615/How-vets-help-vets-conquer-the-after-war

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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.

9 Responses

  1. Lisa Sater

    Sam’s horrible trauma was made worse by the early childhood trauma he had experienced before we were lucky enough to adopt him. He didn’t like us to talk about the adoption because it made him feel lost. We are so grateful for all of the love that Sam’s friends gave him, your brother Brent in particular. I’m sure Brent’s friendship and the acceptance Sam received from all of you extended his life.
    Thank you for writing. You’re right, he’s comfortable and safe now.

  2. Sheree'

    Sam had such a charisma about him, a mischievous sparkle in his eye constantly. I can say I never knew him on a level like some of you did but what I do know of him is that he was an amazing man. I still remember Jr. High when our schools combined classes. I was intimidated by him to say the least, he had more than a foot on me at that time. However, I knew I had no reason to be intimidated as he’d walk by and sling his arm around my shoulder or walk up and use my head as an arm rest, (as many of you boys did) his words were always kind and true, soft spoken and made me think more about life. He inspired me. I always enjoyed his art work, he had such talent. He was a a great man and I’m sorry for the grief and pain his family and friends are going through during this hard time. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. May you rest in peace Sam, thank you so much for the memories and your service to our country Sir.

  3. Christine L

    This is a lovely tribute to Sam. He was a good friend to my daughter, Katie. They had a special connection because of their common lives in the military. We are so sad at his loss and hope that people realize how much love and support our soldiers need when they come home. Thank you, Sam, for your service. And thank you, Sater family, for your service as well. Because the families may be on the home front, but they are still serving – just in a different way. We are so very sorry for your loss. 🙁

  4. Stephanie

    Sam was such a great person! So sorry for his family’s loss!! May he now rest in peace! You were loved my many, Sam!:)

  5. Michael Casello

    So sad to hear this news. Although I knew Sam a short time, we did share some Army stories. I worked along side Sam at the Minnesota DOC and always found him to be a very outgoing person to be around. I will keep his family and friends in my heart and prayers.

  6. Scott Sater

    This is a very beautiful and honest tribute to Sam Sater. As his father, I watched him slowly “fade” in his last days, from the belief that his life held hope and energy and possibility. It was a tragedy, as my wife Lisa shared ~ that began well before any of his friends or his family had met him. An early childhood victim of trauma that manifested itself in the struggle to attach, and even believe that connection in relationships could last past his fears. Though….each moment of love poured onto and into him from each of you, his friends, and us his family ~ mattered deeply. Because yes, I could see that shine in his eyes in humorous moments, in belly laughs over “The Simpsons,” and many “thank-you’s” to his family for the good food. Sam was all that you shared, intelligent, wise-beyond-his-years, and full of capacity. Indeed, no love shared with him was a waste. It honored his life, his struggles, and his challenges….all the way to the end. And I concur…Brent Grimler was a godsend to Sam at a very important time in his life. Thanks for writing, Travis. I’m only sorry that I did not see this until today!

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