OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Hero, helper and apple of his mother's eye were all used Friday to describe an Oklahoma soldier who was killed while serving in Iraq.
Red, white and blue flowers surrounded the flag-draped coffin of Army Spc. Sonny Gene Sampler, who was remembered by family and friends at a service in Oklahoma City.
Sampler, 23, was one of five U.S. soldiers killed July 8 at a military headquarters in Samarra, Iraq, when insurgents detonated a car bomb and fired a mortar barrage at the building.
Sampler had a generous spirit, cousin Mark Province recalled.
He told a relative recently that he wanted to use his paycheck to help a fellow soldier buy diapers and food for a new baby.
When Sampler called from Germany in December to tell his family he didn't have the money to come home for Christmas, his mother cried. He sold his belongings to buy a ticket back to the United States to surprise her.
Sampler moved to Oklahoma City with his family while he was in high school.
Maj. Gen. Douglas Dollar called Sampler a hero.
``This young man was willing to go to a strange land and fight for people he doesn't know,'' Dollar said. ``It's clear he was dedicated to a life of service.''