First Lieutenant Lives as a Tiger

Sam Garvey is an artist living in Charlestown, SC. She has always drawn constantly, graduated RISD a couple of years ago and is now painting and creating cut paper designs. Her twin brother James was a First Lieutenant and a platoon leader as well as a AH-64 Apache pilot and combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He died recently.

Sam created this beautiful and moving piece called “Tiger for James.” 

From her father: She was invited to  participate in a large annual arts and crafts fair in Charleston South Carolina.We went up to her piece and realized hanging next to it was a light blue ribbon with the words “Honorable Mention” printed on it. While we smiled and hugged each other a judge came up and hung another ribbon on it which said something like, “Selected for the traveling display.” It will be appearing in art shows around South Carolina and neighboring states for the next year.

James life adventure and celebration continue, thanks to his twin sister’s imagination, skill and love. 

Her work can be found at: samgarvey.carbonmade.com

Here’s more about the family and their story.

While Jamie and Samantha were twins, their personalities were completely different. He was outgoing, social, adventurous, politically astute and fascinated by history. She is reserved, quiet, introverted, careful and most comfortable in familiar surroundings. He went skydiving and owned a Russian military rifle. She attended Comic-con and drew pictures of unicorns.

James studied politics and history at UConn, which he attended on an Army ROTC scholarship. Without question, his experience as a ROTC cadet was what he valued most during his four years at Storrs. He thrilled to the challenges, friendships and adventures ROTC provided. He graduated with honors and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant shortly thereafter.

Samantha studied art at RISD and was so immersed in that activity that she barely experienced anything the city of Providence offered. She was either in the classroom or studio, save for the time she was in her dormitory, drawing. She was a member of a small, tight group of RISD friends. She graduated with honors and then found work as a salesperson at the Paper Source, an art and notions store and lived with her friends at a dreary apartment in New York, and then with us.

When we told Samantha we were moving to Charleston and urged her to do the same, she balked. Her familiar world was exploding. She quietly weighed the risks and possibilities and one day Jamie called after his return from Afghanistan, just to check in. Samantha took the phone and said she wanted his advice. Should she quit her job, move to Charleston and try to make art a fulltime career — that was scary and fraught with peril. His advice was immediate and unwavering: Go for it, Samantha! It’s what you were born to do. She thanked him, called him her “big brother” — an ongoing joke. To which he laughed heartily. It was the last sound she heard from him. Laughter.

After our world exploded and we had moved to Charleston, Tamara wanted to find a symbol to represent James. My sister, Patty, had lost a daughter, my niece Mary Ellen, 20 years ago, and settled on a butterfly to represent her. We laughed at the idea of a butterfly representing Jamie, knowing he’d howl in protest. Then Tamara remembered that when she was pregnant the first time, we called the unborn child “Tiger.” When we later discovered she was pregnant with twins, they became the “Twin Tigers,” whom at birth we named James and Samantha.

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