TUCSON, AZ, USA U.S. Army PFC, 170TH MP COMPANY, 504TH MP BATTALION, 42ND MP BRIGADE, FORT LEWIS, WA 86TH CSH, BAGHDAD, IRAQ 04/18/2005
At the age of 16, Sam Huff went to her parents with a plan: She would join the Army, become a military policewoman, go to college, get a master’s degree in psychology and become an FBI special agent.
“She came to us and said, `I decided what I want to do,'” said her father, Robert Huff. “There was no arguing with her.”
Huff, 18, of Tucson, Ariz., was killed April 18 when a roadside bomb hit her convoy in Baghdad. She was based at Fort Lewis.
Happy and confident, Huff enlisted after graduating from high school and was engaged to another soldier, Pvt. Nicholas Neally. Huff joked about being a military policewoman “so she could boss guys around,” said high school classmate Jeremy Vega. “She was a born leader.” She also turned down a modeling contract to join the Army.
“You know what Lathers? I could have been the next Gap girl. I had a modeling contract and everything. But no, look at me I’m in this awful country, wearing (desert combat uniforms), carrying around a weapon wherever I go and fighting for my country,” said Sam’s friend, Private First Class Ashley Lathers, a military policeman, 170th Military Police Company. “I can’t count how many times Private Huff said this to me day after day. Always with a smile and a laugh after she said it. Followed by, ‘I wouldn’t change where I’m at for anything.’ That’s the kind of person she was. In all honesty she was a model; a model Soldier.”
Not many people, including her parents, considered Sam W. Huff to be obvious Army material. She was petite — just over 5 feet tall — didn’t play any major sports and was best known at Tucson’s Mountain View High School for her striking beauty and sharp fashion sense. But the marching band drum major was also feisty and persistent, a conductor with a loud voice and commanding presence. After graduating from high school last year, Huff completed the grueling months of basic training and then, around Christmas, visited her old stomping grounds before being deployed to Iraq.
On April 18, 2005, Private First Class Huff died in Baghdad from injuries she received the night before when the Humvee she was driving was hit by a roadside bomb, according to the Army. Robert Huff, who spoke with Army officials about the circumstances of his daughter’s death, said that she had spent the night of April 17 guarding an Iraqi police station. She and others in her unit were headed back to their base on the outskirts of Baghdad when an improvised explosive devise detonated next to the Humvee’s driver’s side. Huff was the only one seriously injured, according to Major Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman.
Teachers at Mountain View High said the community has been crushed by her death. At a recent memorial service at Casas Adobes Baptist Church in Tucson, the marching band played two of her favorite ballads, Kirkbride said: one from “Beauty and the Beast,” another from “The Little Mermaid.” On the stage, a black marching band hat — adorned with a plume of black and silver feathers — sat next to her combat helmet, Kirkbride said.
Robert Huff said he’ll never forget what an Army official told him about his daughter’s last moments. As she was bleeding, she told a sergeant next to her that she wanted him to pass along a message to her parents.
“He said, ‘No, you’ll be able to make the call yourself.’ Then she said: ‘No, I don’t think I can make it. Tell my mom I love her, and tell my Dad good luck with his album.’ “