George Samples came home in 1965 and nobody seemed to care.
There were no medals and no answers and for 51 years little has changed.
A few weeks ago, the surviving members of his family got an unexpected invitation to a ceremony at Fort Meade, Md. Lt. George Samples will be honored, not on Memorial Day as you might expect, but on the day after a holiday designed to honor our troops.
It’s nice to be remembered and if he gets a medal that’s good, too. Maybe an Army band will play a few patriotic songs. But even now what the Samples family wants is answers.
Roy Samples was 4 years old when his big brother went to OCS at Fort Benning. He was in the second grade when the Army brought him and his parents back from Germany to bury George in the Main Post Cemetery.
“I hardly remember him,” Roy said.
He remembers that Tom Sellers, a columnist for the Columbus Ledger, wrote a column about him, remembering that George had once been his neighbor and his paperboy.
Sellers didn’t provide meaningful answers, but he did say some nice things about the Baker High School graduate.
The only thing the family was ever told was that Lt. Samples was in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republican. It was known as a hotbed of shortstops, not war, so why was he there?
The only thing the Army said was that he was sent there as a military adviser. They wouldn’t talk about what he was doing only that he was killed when his jeep was ambushed.
He died in action but he never received a Purple Heart or any kind of commendation. “Nobody ever explained why he was attacked,” Roy said.
Now it’s 2016 and all of a sudden his family is informed that this forgotten young lieutenant is being honored at an Army base in Maryland. “It’s only been 51 years,” his brother said.
Why now, the family asks. But as you might guess, no one has answered them. Roy can’t attend the ceremony but his sister in Virginia can and so can another brother and a nephew.
Maybe they’ll get some answers this week. Maybe not. But at least someone finally remembers Lt. George Samples.
Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org