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
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
“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.