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Stretch of US highway dedicated to soldier

A 6-mile stretch of U.S. 62 (Rogers Lane) from Northwest 82nd Street to Interstate 44 is now dedicated to the memory of Spc. Sonny Gene Sampler following a highway dedication ceremony on Friday.

A sizeable contingent of the soldier's family members gathered in the Cache High School auditorium to hear state Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield, read a citation by the Southwest Oklahoma legislative delegation honoring the fallen soldier.

Coody asked for the assistance of the soldier's brother, "Skeeter" Sampler of Cache, in presenting a flag that had flown over the state Capitol to the soldier's parents, Gene and Kim Sampler of Oklahoma City. He also presented them with a replica of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation signs facing eastbound traffic at Northwest 82nd and westbound traffic from I-44.

Other family members present included the soldier's sisters, Gina Gonser and her husband Ty of Clovis, N.M., and Vicki Sampler of Farwell, Texas; and Skeeter's wife, Jennifer; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

As noted in the citation, Sonny Gene Sampler was born Dec. 19, 1980, in Altus. The family later moved to Oklahoma City, where he attended high school. He enlisted in the Army in 2001. At the time of his death he was serving as a specialist with 1st Battalion, based in Schweinfurt, Germany. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

After the Iraqi National Guard station in Samarra, Iraq, was destroyed by a suicide car bomber, Sampler was at the site looking for survivors when it came under mortar attack. He was one of five U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty on July 8, 2004. He is interred at Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

"I did not have the privilege of meeting Sonny, but from his family and his friends, as evidenced by the presence of you all today, he was a fine, fine young man. He lived a short life in years, but his life was extremely full and extremely fulfilling Ö His time here was very short, but I believe he accomplished more in his life than most Americans ever will. He stood in defense of our freedom willingly. He voluntarily wrote the people of our country a blank check," Coody said.

"The Oklahoma Legislature wishes to honor and commemorate Spc. Sonny Gene Sampler for his selfless service to our country and for the ultimate sacrifice he paid in order to keep our nation safe and the freedoms we enjoy secure, by designating a section of U.S. Highway 62 in Lawton Ö as Spc. Sonny Gene Sampler Memorial Highway," the citation reads.

The Lawton Constitution

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