LANDOVER – In many ways, Sgt. Princess C. Samuels was a paradox: The “girly girl” loved the color pink, fashion and her poodle, Skylar, yet chose a job that favored heavy armament and desert camouflage.
Friday, the Mitchellville native, 22, was remembered in a memorial service at the Jericho City of Praise as a bubbly personality who enjoyed art, designing her own clothing and encouraging others around her to try their best. Killed Aug. 15 in Taji, Iraq, by “indirect enemy fire,” she was buried in the afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery.
The service included a number of touches consistent with Samuels’ eclectic style: Many mourners dressed in hues of rose, programs were printed on fluorescent pink paper and a few women had their hair dyed pink.
Gaines Wynn, a teacher at Charles H. Flowers High School, who taught Samuels before she graduated in 2003, told the 150 mourners that Samuels was one of her favorite students. Samuels continued to write after she enlisted in the Army, Gaines said, telling her in letters that she was painting while stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.
“I went to Arizona State, and I’ve been to Fort Huachuca,” Gaines said. “Only Princess could find something to paint there.”
Offering his condolences, Wynn’s husband, U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville, said, “I believe that the pretty pink flower has been plucked up and planted in a celestial garden, where she will continue to grow.”
Samuels received full military honors, with a Bronze Star presented to her mother, Anika Lawal, who wore a pink wide-brimmed hat. Citations by several elected officials also were read in her honor.
Nikki Ellis, 22, of Largo, said by telephone that she and Samuels had planned to go into the military early in high school when both enrolled in an ROTC program. Samuels, Ellis said, chose the Army because it allowed her to pursue work as an imagery analyst gathering intelligence.
“We wanted to leave Maryland, see the world and have a purpose,” said Ellis, who missed the service because she is stationed in Guam, but sent a letter, which was read aloud.
Ellis said Samuels’ charisma manifested itself in high school, when she convinced Ellis to let her pull off their sets of braces so they could enlist.
“I wasn’t messing with those pliers, but she had no problem with it,” Ellis said.
Samuels is the fourth female from Maryland killed in the war on Iraq, and at least the 68th Marylander overall, according to Department of Defense records.
Other members of the military to have died in Iraq recently include:
— Army Pvt. 1st Class Brandon M. Craig, 25, of Earleville, who died July 19 in Husayniyah from wounds sustained by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.
— Army Sgt. Robert E. Dunham, 36, a Baltimore native who died May 24 in Baghdad when an explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade Transition Team, and attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
— Army Spc. Casey W. Nash, 22, of Baltimore, who died with two other soldiers May 18 when an explosive device hit their unit in Tahrir. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
— Army Pvt. 1st Class Jonathan V. Hamm, 20, of Baltimore, who died May 17 when his base sustained indirect enemy fire in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 2nd Batallion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
— Army Staff Sgt. Jay E. Martin, 29, of Baltimore, who died April 21 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device hit his unit while it was conducting combat operations. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Forson, Colo.
— Army Staff Sgt. Marlon B. Harper, 34, of Baltimore, who died April 21 in Baghdad after he was wounded while on patrol by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.