Samantha Lamy ’14 has been passionate about helping others for pretty much as long as she can remember—including while at Taft, when she spent multiple spring breaks volunteering at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic—but she never imagined that this commitment to service would lead her to commission in the United States military. Fast forward a few years, and Lamy found herself on the front lines assisting with the evacuation of American troops and citizens, as well as Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, during the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul in August 2021.
A first lieutenant in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Lamy was on hand at the tail end of the withdrawal to help ensure that as many people as possible were able to leave the country safely. “I was only there for the last 11 days, but it felt like much longer,” she recalls. “It was a very unstable environment, and I had to adapt to it very quickly. There wasn’t really time to be afraid—we couldn’t afford to let our guard down. As a female, I felt as though all eyes were on me at all times.”
Although she grew up in a military family—her father and both grandfathers are veterans—Lamy did not aspire to follow in their footsteps. But after she encountered a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps recruiter during freshman orientation at Rhodes College, her interest was piqued. “I’ve played sports all my life, so I figured that the ROTC would at least be a good way to stay in shape, and at the same time, I could see what my dad did when he was in the Army,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Lamy realized that she had found more than another extracurricular activity. She spent the rest of her time at Rhodes not only juggling a demanding course load—pursuing a major in neuroscience and a minor in English, along with joining a sorority and singing in an a cappella group—but also preparing for military service. During the summers, she attended training camps at Fort Knox and Airborne School at Fort Benning, and after graduation, she continued her education, learning to become a signal officer and later attending Jumpmaster School.
For the past three years, she has been stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where, most recently, she was selected to be the command group operations officer for Colonel Theodore W. Kleisner, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in the 82nd. “Basically, I keep his life on track,” Lamy says. “I manage his calendar and coordinate with all of the people that he needs to meet with. The job is challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding since I get to sit in on meetings with experienced leaders and learn from them.” It was in this role that she arrived in Kabul last summer. “When we got the call, I was actually on assignment in Italy,” she says. “I took the next plane home, got a couple hours of sleep, and was ready to deploy in less than 24 hours.”
In addition to assisting Colonel Kleisner during the deployment, Lamy worked closely with Afghan families, including at an orphanage similar to the one she visited while a Taftie. “We were interacting with people whose languages we didn’t know and could only communicate using hand and body gestures,” she says. “Between body armor, helmet, and weapon, we can appear threatening, so I just tried to offer them as much care as I could—to smile and let them know that we were there to help.”
But for one family, Lamy provided more than just comfort and reassurance; she was instrumental in helping them flee the country. It started when her father had lunch with a childhood friend who mentioned he knew a family in Kabul that had assisted the U.S. military but was unable to get out. He called Lamy, who got in touch with the family and learned that they were afraid to leave their house for fear of the Taliban.
“They had all their documents, but they needed a person who had contacts. In a situation like this, it made a huge difference to have someone who could vouch for them,” she points out. “I was messaging back and forth with them as we tried to coordinate for transportation from their home, but eventually, they couldn’t wait any longer and showed up at Abbey Gate, one of our controlled access points at the airport. I got a call from a Marine on guard who said that, if I could get there, I could bring them through to the international terminal.” She jumped into action, picking them up in a government vehicle, shuttling them through security, and getting them on a plane within hours.
For Lamy, these are the experiences that make her most proud to be a soldier. “It’s hard to imagine what it feels like to fear for your life like they did, and it was incredible to experience their relief when they saw me for the first time,” she explains. “I know that there are other countries and other people who need that kind of support, and I want to be able to offer it, so I know I need to continue to serve.”
—Christopher Browner ’12