It's been a harrowing few days for families of the 890th Engineering Battalion. Just ask James Burley. Monday he was on pothole patrol. Physically, the public works employee was in Waveland. Mentally, he was half a world away.
"It's been aggravating me all day," he said.
The aggravation started over the weekend. Just two days ago, Burley found out his nephew Patrick Garrett was one of the five South Mississippi National Guardsmen who got hurt when an explosive device went off during an Iraqi fire fight.
"All they said was he got shot," Burley said of the military. "They didn't give any information on how bad or anything."
Garrett's family was told he hurt his jaw. And he lost some hearing in an ear. The military confirms that the 19 year old is back with his 890th Engineering Battalion unit. His uncle won't feel comfortable until he hears from Garrett.
"Because right now I'm still worried about him," Uncle James said. "They still haven't told us if he's doing better or anything."
Garrett was in the same convoy with Carl Sampson.
"If anybody can make it through, it's Carl," Donna Williams said.
Williams is the family support group liason for the 890th. Here's how she described the Pearl River County National Guard member.
"He's tough," she said. "He's as gung ho as they get. He re-upped just to go over there with the guys. I mean he wasn't even in the guard. He came up here after they were activated and signed back up."
Williams pointed to a picture of the 890th before it left for Iraq. The unit was still in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Sampson was standing in the back row. Since Friday's ambush, Sampson's critical injuries have put him front and center in many people's minds.
The Sampson family has gotten plenty of help from the community. A Pearl River County church donated $1,300 dollars to offset travel costs. And the 890th family support group contributed $550. A family spokesman said the Sampsons appreciated everything their family and friends were doing for them.
by Brad Kessie
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