ABSECON, NJ, USA U.S. Army SGT, COMPANY B, 1ST BATTALION, 505TH INFANTRY, FORT BRAGG, NC FOB SUMMERALL, IRAQ 05/06/2007
Sameer was just 16 when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks happened. The teenager was living in South Carolina with his mother, Erzsebet Howell, and felt the hatred that many Muslims endured at that time.
A year later, his father took him to ground zero.”It devastated him,” Rateb said. “He just couldn’t handle the emotion of what had happened there.” That’s when “Sam” started talking about serving his country. He had never mentioned the military before.
He was a good athlete. Sam was a member of Brigantine’s Little League traveling team when he was 13. He played baseball and soccer in South Carolina, where he attended high school for a time.
He moved back to New Jersey with his father in 2001, and the next year, the young man who loved adventure found his calling. He finished infantry training in July and the basic airborne course in August. That September, he started a three-month stint in Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“All indications we’ve gotten are that he was a stellar paratrooper and a gifted leader” said Major Tom Earnhardt, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The young soldier received several medals and other commendations.
“He enjoyed it,” Rateb said of his son’s service. “He was proud of it.”
The boy who loved diving and surfing was now a young man who enjoyed jumping out of planes as a paratrooper.
“They all tell me every time they jump, they’re scared, but they do it anyway,” Mohamed Rateb said. “(Sam) loved jumping.”
After marking three years of service in March, SGT Rateb signed up for another five years and planned to learn how to fly Black Hawk helicopters by applying for the warrant officer program.
“The comradery and the friendship he developed with his fellow soldiers is amazing to me,” Mohamed Rateb said. When he visited his son for his 21st birthday last year, Mohamed met many of those young men. “They’re a special group of characters,” he said.
Last year, Rateb married his childhood sweetheart, Tiffany. Together they were raising a son, Jason, 4, in Ladson, S.C. He was hoping to change the world, said his father. Some people do it by literature, and some people do it by brawn. Sam was a loyal friend, a loving husband and father, said his father. He was a best friend to me.
I sent a boy to the Army, and he came back a man, his father said. He was proud of what he was doing.