Her son’s a hero

Ryan Carter

For the most part, Patty Overton’s Easter Sunday was a fairly lonely

day compared to past holidays.

The thoughts of her son, Samuel Taylor Overton, 22, a staff


sergeant in the U.S. Marine’s 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance

Battalion, were never far away. He surprised her with a call about 3

a.m. Sunday morning from somewhere in the Middle East. The only other

time she had heard from him since February was in a letter.


“He was able to call and he was just wishing us a happy Easter,”

said Overton, an administrative assistant at the Montrose-Verdugo

City Chamber of Commerce and Burbank resident. “He told me not to


But he didn’t tell her everything.

The day went on for the single mom, who remained a bit melancholy

as most of her family wasn’t present for the traditional Easter

feast. Her younger son, Nick Rodriguez, 15, was staying with his


father in Glendale.

Then the phone rang again about 3 p.m., and her spirits were soon


On the other line, two men identified themselves as former

prisoners of war -- chief warrant officers Ronald D. Young Jr. and

David S. Williams. They said they were pulled out of a cell in a

southern Iraqi town by four Marines, one of whom was her son.

They wanted to thank her.


“For the first couple of seconds, I was very skeptical,” Overton

said, thinking it was a prank. “But as I talked to Williams, I was in

awe that these young people wanted to thank each and every one of the

parents of the young men that went in and got them. They told us we

should be proud of them, and that Sam’s Marine unit was instrumental

in getting them out and keeping them safe.”

Young and Williams were captured March 23 after their Apache

helicopter went down in central Iraq. They called Overton from Ft.

Hood, Texas. Five others from a combat support unit -- Spc. Edgar

Hernandez, 21; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23; Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30;

Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23; and Sgt. James Riley, 31 -- were captured in

an ambush, also March 23, near a southern Iraqi town near Nasiriyah.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch was also in the ambushed unit and was taken


The seven POWS were found by Overton’s unit April 13 near the

city of Samarra, about 30 miles south of Tikrit. Lynch had been

rescued earlier.

The Marines in Overton’s unit were reportedly flagged down by some

Iraqis who were guarding the POWs.

“When they went in [to rescue the POWs], my son and three Marines

said, ‘We’ve come to take you home,’” Patty Overton said she was

told. “I haven’t touched the ground yet.”

Young and Williams told Overton they had to go because President

George W. Bush had arrived, she said.

She shouted for joy after the five-minute conversation and had to

get her fiance to drive the car afterward because she was shaking.

She wasn’t the only one sparked by the news.

“I think everybody’s reaction, including everyone on the base,

was, No. 1, that it was great to have the POWs rescued,” said Gunnery

Sgt. Frank Patterson, the public affairs chief at Twenty-nine Palms,

where Overton’s battalion is stationed. “But, second, that ‘Hey, it

was our Marines that did it.’ It was a great feather in the hat.”

Patty Overton said it should be a feather in her son’s cap, too.

The boy she sometimes called “meathead,” because of his

clean-shaven bald head, graduated from John Burroughs High School in

1998, not knowing what he wanted to do. He enlisted in 1999,

questioning if he could do the job.

“It’s been tough for him, but he’s risen through the Marines,” she

said, adding that he’s found direction with the Marines and has a

goal of becoming a drill sergeant. “He’s the type of Marine that has

a Marine handbook in one pocket and a small Bible in the other.”

Overton said she hoped the events in Iraq have solidified his

confidence in his own abilities, and she awaits a possible homecoming

in July.

“First I’m going to kiss him, then I’m going to kick him in the

butt,” she jokingly said of not telling her of his heroic experience.