Eulogy for Captain Benjamin Sammis
Allen D. Grinalds
As I write here in the Iraqi desert trying to make sense of Ben's passing, feeling the most profound sense of loss, it is difficult to grasp that I won't be able to share any more time with him. Countless times over the last years I have leaned on him for support. From work at the squadron where I was certain I would be unable to accomplish seemingly impossible taskings to listening to me when I simply only needed someone to listen, Ben' s dedication as a friend and fellow Marine was something I have rarely experienced.
Ben and I met at I-IMLA-267 when he joined the squadron. His large personality and infectious, positive can-do attitude immediately made him a popular lieutenant in the squadron and the guy the senior pilots wanted to fly with. Peers and seniors alike gravitated towards him like moths to a porch light on a summer evening. Besides an excellent attitude, it readily became apparent to all that he would be a "player" in the squadron and one to keep an eye on.
Being selfish,I immediately began to lobby to have him deploy with me on his first MEU. After ensuring he would deploy with me, I was able to fulfill my goal of having him as my combat crew. I now knew that if we were ever going to be engaged in hostilities, I would have the best pilot available sitting directly in front of me in my cockpit.
As our deployment continued, Ben and I had the chance to grow closer and closer as friends. Whether it was flying under challenging conditions off the boat, or relaxing on liberty playing golf in Thailand on the way back to the States, Ben and I were able to grow as comrades-in-arms and trusted friends. I readily put my life in hands multiple times with comfort and ease and would dare to say that he felt the same way. One finds something that special only a few times in their lifetime. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity this early on.
Why did God decide to take Ben home at this juncture? That is a question that will haunt me off and on for the duration I am on this Earth. However, I do know this: God's grace is abundant and sufficient for us if we chose to believe in Him. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".
Through hot, angry tears and a knotted chest, I have come to realize that while Ben's passing is a horrific blow for all those that knew and loved him, the Lord has blessed me by allowing me to share the time I did have with Ben. It is on that time together where I became a better person for knowing him that I remain focused.
Stacie, Ben' s love for you was joyful, abundant, and bottomless. I want you to know in front of all those gathered here that Ben has set the benchmark for me on how a husband should love and respect and lift up his wife. Case in point: The day of his accident we were sitting outside our squadron ready room eating lunch on a makehift seat of sand bags. After discussing the evening flight together and what we would eat if we could have anything, Ben began writing in his journal.
Pasted to the inside cover of his journal is a picture of you two with a beautiful sunset in the background. I saw him stop writing and pause as he stared at the picture with a look of pure contentment and fulfillment on his face. I caught his stare and he held up the picture that I know he has looked at countless times. He simply smiled at me behind his sunglasses and nodded his head in affirmation. No words were exchanged and none were needed. It is that level of love and devotion that I hope to have.
The future without Ben in our lives seems chaotic and difficult to comprehend. John Eddison, in discussing the future in relation to God says, "Father, although I cannot see the future You have planned, and though the path is sometimes dark and hard to understand, You give me faith, through joy and pain, to trace Your loving hand". It is this universal, Godly truth that I now embrace more than ever.
It is difficult to say exactly what chain of events led to Ben's passing on that night. I know this though: Ben was a superior naval aviator with an abundance of aeronautical skills. His loss simply tells me that it could have been anyone in the cockpit that evening. Ben left this world to be with his Father doing what he loved.
So the question still remains: How do we go on from here? God's grace and sufficiency will pull all of us through. For me in my current situation I also have other earthly motivations. I will continue to execute my profession to the best of my ability while I am here for one overriding reason: I want Pokcy to be proud of me.