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Veteran tells story of love and loss

HAPPY COUPLE: Carl and Kelly Sampson were married in 2010, seven years after Carl was nearly killed in Iraq. Photo by Dart Spiers

HAPPY COUPLE: Carl and Kelly Sampson were married in 2010, seven years after Carl was nearly killed in Iraq.
Photo by Dart Spiers

Carl Sampson sat in his living room on Friday afternoon with his wife Kelly to tell the story of his military service. He talked about the four years he spent in the United States Marine Corps, and the three years he served in the National Guard after that. When it came time to talk about the injury that almost took his life, he stood up and walked across the room to show a picture of what Sampson says he “really looks like.”
He stood and walked – something he could not do 10 years ago while lying in a bed paralyzed.
And that’s what the picture showed: a wounded soldier lying strapped to a hospital bed, with such terrible head trauma that one would think they were looking at the image of a dead man.
Yet here he is, able to walk outside in the shadows of the six American flags he has flapping around his house, so he can greet visitors in the driveway of his lovely Picayune home. It took three years of rehabilitation and recovery, working his way up to a wheelchair, a walker and finally a cane before being able to maneuver on his own.
“I’m a headstrong person when I want to be,” said Sampson, “I was determined they weren’t going to stop me from walking.”
Sampson was injured in Iraq when enemies detonated a missile beneath his vehicle during his deployment in Sept. 2003. The explosion did not kill anyone in the truck, but severely wounded Sampson and others. The blast took his left eye and the hearing in his right ear, but did not take his faith.
Sampson thanks God for his recovery and for surviving the attack. When the missile detonated, Sampson said the gas line in the truck was severed immediately, which prevented a fire.
“Normally it would have killed everybody in the truck,” Sampson said, “I thank the good Lord that there was no burn damage.”
Another thing Sampson is thankful for is his marriage to Kelly. Carl and Kelly tied the knot in 2010, seven years after his accident.
“When we first started dating, I was scared to death,” said Sampson, who was worried that his injury would keep him from finding someone who loved him for who he was.
When Sampson said that his wife accepts him for the way he looks, she barely let him finish the thought.
“I love the way he looks,” said Kelly Sampson.
There have been setbacks to Sampson’s recovery. He needed an emergency brain surgery in April of last year after an apparent infection, which damaged his memory. He also still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, although Kelly says that has improved since she met him.
But Sampson talked about everything he had gained more than anything he had lost. The Purple Heart he was awarded along with all his other military medals and honors sat in a box labeled simply “junk” when Kelly met him. She said that Sampson was too depressed to look at them.
Now they are hung proudly on the wall in their home, right next to pictures of the two of them.