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Old 08-07-2003, 08:42 AM   #1
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E-mails from Iraq show pride in Lumbee culture

http://www.fayettevillenc.com/story....&Story=5765950

Published on: 2003-08-07



PROFILE


E-mails from Iraq show pride in Lumbee culture


By Kevin Maurer
Staff writer



Sgt. Rocky Sampson signs all of his e-mails with ''It ain't easy being who we are, Lumbee Indians."


U.S. Army photo
Sgt. Rocky Sampson, 21, of Lumberton, left, is serving in Iraq with Company B, 82nd Soldier Support Battalion.
''I really love who I am, and I'm not ashamed of my culture,'' Sampson said by e-mail from Iraq. "I'm very proud of it and wouldn't want to be anything different."

Sampson, who is Lumbee, was born and raised in Lumberton. He enlisted in the Army after graduating from Lumberton High School in 2000.

The Lumbees are trying to gain federal recognition, and the fight is an important one for Sampson.

''I really think the Lumbees are so unique. From light skinned to dark we all are a big family," he said.

Sampson said the Lumbees are struggling and need the benefits of federal recognition. Federally recognized tribes are eligible for millions of dollars for economic development, housing, education and health care.

''The struggles that my tribe has endured over the years haven't been easy, and today things are still not easy for us," he said.

Sampson said he attends as many tribe functions as possible when he is home.

He's presently in Baghdad with the 82nd Soldier Support Battalion. Sampson has been deployed for six months and will not return to Fort Bragg until January. A typical deployment usually lasts six months, but with the need for troops, the Defense Department announced the year deployment after the 2nd Brigade had already deployed for six months.

''Its almost like starting the deployment all over again," Sampson said.

The hardest part of the deployment is the heat, he said. Temperatures climb above 100 degrees during the day in Iraq. One day it reached 125 degrees.

Despite the hardships, Sampson said he wanted to deploy to Iraq because he wanted to serve his country.

''I have a better understanding of what freedom means to me and how most Americans take it for granted," he said.

Sampson said he was most shocked at how selfish Saddam Hussein was. He said Hussein spent most of the country's money on himself.

''He forgot about how most of his people were suffering. Little kids would come up to me asking for little things, such as ChapStick," he said. ''Their lips would be so chapped it was too much for me to bear. Adults and kids walking around on the hot pavement without any shoes on. You could see their feet were all dried up and they had cracks in them. It was bad to see."

Sampson had wanted to join the Army since he was a child. Living near Fort Bragg, which is about 40 miles from Lumberton, he always wanted to be a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

He is a personnel specialist with the 82nd Soldier Support Battalion.

Capt. Ken Heckel, Sampson's commanding officer, praised his work ethic and dedication to his mission and fellow soldiers.

''Sgt. Sampson has done an outstanding job here in Iraq," Heckel said.

Heckel said Sampson has accomplished his mission ''with the greatest level of professionalism and patriotism.

''He understands the contribution he is making to the lives of the Iraqi people and the place that this event will hold in history," Heckel said.

Sampson was promoted to sergeant in June. He re-enlisted before he deployed and plans to pursue a career in dentistry. He has completed two years of college at Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Staff writer Kevin Maurer can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3587.
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