On his 20th birthday last month, Spc. Samuel M. Boswell sent his family and friends an e-mail from Iraq, jovial and upbeat as ever.
The Maryland Army National Guardsman talked about his missions and mentioned making new friends and comrades. Boswell planned for a big birthday bash he would have back home, complete with a bonfire. And he made his family and friends laugh, as he always did.
Boswell, of Elkridge, whose funeral yesterday drew nearly 200 friends and family members, was one of three National Guard soldiers of the 243rd Engineer Company based in West Baltimore who were killed in a Humvee crash in Iraq on Oct. 14. He was on his way to meet his brother, a civilian worker in Baghdad. Bowsell was promoted posthumously to the rank of corporal.
In a nearly two-hour service, those who knew him remembered Boswell's playfulness, his optimism and ever-present smile. They recalled Boswell's love of a good time.
"Sammy was always a jokester," recalled A.J. Leishear, 20, Boswell's best friend with whom he grew up and played baseball. "Just watching Sammy act the way he did put a smile on your face."
Boswell, who grew up in Fulton and joined the Guard in June 2003, had been in Iraq since mid-August. He was a member of the 121st Engineer Company based in Prince Frederick but volunteered for duty as part of the 243rd Company, his family and friends said. Boswell was due back in August, said Jackie Boswell, his sister-in-law.
Seated in two pews at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Fulton, the Boswell family's parish, more than a dozen members of the 121st Engineer Company hung their heads and cried for their friend. They held a 24-hour vigil of Boswell's casket at the funeral home, said Capt. David Roberts, and some were pall bearers.
A soldier from Boswell's home Guard unit told his family to "not mourn their loss but celebrate the life of a true American hero."
Holding back tears, Dawn Odette, who is engaged to Boswell's brother, Alan, told mourners that the family "was proud of him and couldn't be any more proud of him now."
After graduating from the Technology Magnet program at River Hill High School in Clarksville in 2003, Boswell worked with his brother, Tony, in construction before joining the National Guard, Leishear said.
"He loved it," Leishear said.
One of eight children, Boswell was part of a large, extended family - Jackie Boswell said 26 members of the immediate family are comforting each other at their father's home on Pindell School Road in Fulton. Boswell's mother, Martha, passed away last year, said the Rev. Dennis Diehl of St. Francis parish.
Diehl, who eulogized Boswell, said, "It doesn't matter if you live 100 years or 20 years. It's how you live your life. Sam did good things in his life. He was serving his country; he was trying to help people in another country have a life, a better life."
Turning to the family, he said, "None of us will forget Sam. ... He was a good, just, honorable man. Even though he was taken away from you, he's with God and his beloved mother."
After the funeral, Boswell was buried with full military honors at Columbia Memorial Park in Clarksville.
There, Boswell's father, Anthony, received the flag - folded triangularly - that had been draped over his son's casket.
One by one, Boswell's siblings laid red roses on their brother's silver casket.