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, passed away unexpectedly on August 19, 2020 in New Port Richey, FL at the age of 57. Sam was born in Woodbury, New Jersey to Samuel W. Downs, Sr. and Terry (née Armstrong) Downs. Sam was the oldest of four boys and the closeness he and his brothers shared from childhood through adulthood was second to none. Sam married the love of his life, Michelle (née Puglia) Downs in 1982 when they were just children themselves. Education was important to Sam. After graduating from Delsea Regional High School in Franklinville, New Jersey, he went on to attain two associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees.

Sam was a military veteran whose career spanned 26 years. He was an active duty Paratrooper in the United States Army serving with the Military Police Corps for over 15 years. Sam was a Paratrooper with the premier 82nd Airborne Division (Americas Guard of Honor) and was involved in Operation Just Cause, Panama mid-December 1989 where he parachuted into darkness and live combat earning his coveted combat master parachutist badge with bronze service star. He helped stand up the Army’s new brigade combat team (BCT) pilot program in Alaska as the platoon Sergeant for the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade (SIB) (Airborne). While serving, he earned his Royal-Thai foreign Jump wings, German jump wings, Spanish jump wings, Ecuadorian jump wings and Canadian Parachutists Badge, German Marksmanship Badge (Gold), and his Army Physical Fitness Badge to mention only a few. Sam was like a father, a leader, a counselor, a critic, and friend to his Troopers. He also deployed to Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia and Iraq along with various other military deployments. Sam was the epitome of what a leader should be which is evident by him being selected as the Distinguished Honor Graduate and Leadership Award winner for his basic non-commissioned officer class and officer basic course. Sam was selected to the sergeants major academy which he turned down to change course and apply his leadership capabilities elsewhere within the department of defense. He separated from active duty and served in the Army Reserve Medical Corps for five years and the Air Force Reserve Medical Corps for six years. He ended his military career by retiring as a Captain from the Air Force Reserves. Sam continued to serve his country after his military service by working as a civilian for the Air Force Space Command in military satellite communications until he retired in 2019. Sam was very proud and honored to serve his country throughout his adult life. Sam was as an incredible soldier. However, the impact he had on his family was by far the most significant. Sam and Michelle had three children and he loved his children dearly. They remember him as a hardworking, supportive, kind, and passionate father who was very active in their lives. Sam encouraged his children to pursue their goals and follow their own dreams and adventures wherever that might take them. From the moment his first grandchild, Kiya, was brought into the world, the love and joy provided by his grandchildren was paramount to his existence. Each one of them had their own unique bond with him. He was an involved and loving uncle, cousin, nephew, son, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and son-in-law. Sam was a wonderful husband and by the way he looked at Michelle, you could see the deep love he had for her. Michelle and Sam genuinely enjoyed each other and were not only spouses, but also friends.

Sam lived life to the fullest. He was adventurous and loved the outdoors. Sam traveled around the world with family and friends. He had a keen eye and enjoyed documenting through his love of photography. Sam was a mentor to many people throughout the years, from his soldiers to the children he coached in sports. His ability to make his presence as meaningful as possible to all – family, friends, neighbors and even strangers – has left a hole that cannot be filled. He was the most helpful, capable, and willing person regarding the needs of those around him. It is beyond words how much he will be missed by all of the people he touched throughout his life. Sam leaves behind his wife, Michelle and their three children, Regina and her husband James Skinner, Trisha Downs and Sam Downs III and his wife Nicole. He also leaves behind six grandchildren: Kiya, Jack, Rosalie, Lucille, Athena, and Persephani. He is survived by his siblings, Russell Downs and his wife Helen, Douglas Downs and his wife Erin, and Steven Downs and his wife Missy, as well as his parents.

A military honor service and celebration of his life will be held on a date to be determined.


  • Joe Bayne
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    My heart goes out to his family and friends!! Thoughts and prayers to all and may his family be blessed for all of eternity!! Sam was the single most principled man I know and his leadership and mentorship was second to none.. a devastating loss to everyone that new him!! Until Valhalla my friend, May your sky’s be blue and winds be calm!! Rest In Peace!! Watch over us and remind us of the important things in life!! Family forever!!

  • Jon & Nora Haight
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Deepest Sympathy

  • Matt Knitter
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    All my love to the Downs Family. Sam was a wonderful friend.

  • Lisa Cotton Johnson
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    May you Rest In Peace Sgt Downs. You had a profound affect on my son James Cotton’s life while he served under you. You were the only real male example to him. I know James was so happy to reconnect and see you in March 19 and was looking forward to visiting you in Florida. Sending prayers to your family at this most difficult time.

  • Daniel “Danno” Wilson
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    Even before I met Sam I called him in AK from Ft Hood, Texas and he was a welcoming Platoon Sergeant. Loved working with him and learning from him and trying to keep up with him. The man could work out and hustle like nobody I’d ever met. Made me want to become a Jumpmaster and better leader and paratrooper to better serve my own soldiers. I know I’m a better man because I had the opportunity to serve with him. He even served to officiate my wedding. Rest easy Sam, you earned it, love you man. I know you’ve gone ahead to prepare the dz for the rest of us. Michelle and kids, I’m so sorry for your loss, but I know having Sam in your lives prepared you to continue being strong and keep being positive for your family and friends on your left and right. That’s how he would want it. It hurts, but know there are MPs and paratroopers all over the world praying for you all! God Bless.

  • Joe Murtagh
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    I knew SSG Downs while serving with him in the 82nd MP Co. from 1990 to 1993. He was an inspiration, a great Leader! He was of the troops and for the troops. My thoughts and prayer go out to the entire Downs family as you all cope with such a sudden and tragic loss of a special human being. Best wishes, Joe Murtagh

  • Steve Kreiss
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Carol and I are so sorry to hear about Sam. Our prayers are with Michelle and their family. Sam always was helping out and caring for those in his company-family, military, or civilian. A great mentor for us all in serving and helping one another. Rock of the Marne Sam!

  • Kip Kiser
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Downs family, I am so sorry for your loss. Sam was a great man. You could tell that from his initial handshake, comforting smile and overall warming demeanor. I’ll be praying for Michele his kids and grandkids in the Downs family, for sure.

  • Dr. Steven Scavelli
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    God speed my friend, It was good to know you, I will see you again when my day comes.

  • Nick DeSilvio
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    So very sorry for your loss. Sam was a good man!!

  • Nick DeSilvio
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    So very sorry for your loss. RIP Sam.

  • Nancy Miller
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    Deepest of sympathies to the whole Downs family!! I’m honored to have known and grew up with the family they are all amazing !! You all are in my thoughts and prayers!!

  • Bill Dee
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    My deepest sympathies to the family of this wonderful leader and mentor of so many Soldiers (including this old Paratrooper). May God grant Sam rest and his family peace as we all morn this loss.

  • Bill D.
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 5:22 pm

    My deepest sympathies to the family of this wonderful leader and mentor of so many Soldiers (including this old Paratrooper). May God grant Sam rest and his family peace as we all morn this loss.

  • Bill
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    My deepest sympathies to the family of this wonderful leader and mentor of so many Soldiers (including this old Paratrooper). May God grant Sam rest and his family peace as we all morn this loss.

  • Delta M.
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    My deepest sympathies to the family of this wonderful leader and mentor of so many Soldiers (including this old Paratrooper). May God grant Sam rest and his family peace as we all morn this loss.

  • Larry Martin
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    Prayers and thoughts to the Downs’ family. Sam was a great man and leader to everyone around him.

  • LTC (ret) Daniel K. Dorado
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    My deepest condolences to the Downs family. I knew him as 1SG when I was a platoon leader with the 984th MP CO at Fort Carson, CO from 1997-2001. We deployed to Bosnia together in 2000. Thank you for your service. Be Thou At Peace.

  • Robert Bennett
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Sam was one of my mentors in the 82nd Military Police Company (Airborne). He was my Operations Sergeant while I was the Air NCO, he was also my Platoon Sergeant and I one of his squad leaders. He was the epitome of leadership, and that all stemmed from his love of his family. You are missed Sam.

  • Joe Stout
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    I was so sad to hear this news. I met Sam when I got to Alaska, we were platoon sergeants together there. He was a good friend and mentor for me as a new guy to the brigade. We only knew each other for couple of years, but I am much better for it. Rest in Peace Jumpmaster. You will be missed.

    My prayers and condolences to the Downs family. May God’s peace be with you.

  • Mike
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    God bless

  • Carl Adams Jr
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    My heart and prayers stand with the Downs family. Condolences from the Adams’. Corky will welcome Sam with open arms. Hugs

  • Richard Shuman
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    Mrs. Downs and family, I am so sorry for your loss. Sam was a Soldier I was responsible for as his Drill sergeant, we were later assigned together in the 3rd MP Co., in Wurzburg. I knew he would accomplish great things. I am saddened to learn of his untimely passing. Praying for him and his family.

  • Danille Handy
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    My sincere condolences to the Downs family in this difficult time. Sam was absolutely an amazing man that left a lifelong impression to those he met. His humor, guidance, and helpful nature will be missed. I will be forever grateful I had the privilege to have known him.

  • Kim Boyer
    Posted August 27, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Thoughts and prayers to the family…..

  • Dusty Baxley
    Posted August 27, 2020 at 8:00 am

    Sam was a Man’s Man. Served with him in the 82d MP s. Always steady and strong. The world is a little dimmer without his presence. Rest In Peace Airborne. Save a place at the table for me You left us too soon.

  • Joseph and Nancy Calabro
    Posted August 27, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    You are All in our thoughts and prayers. We share your grief…

  • Mike Cali
    Posted August 27, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Michelle and family,
    I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Sam’s passing. I still can’t believe it.
    I am glad to see that he lived a very full life. A life that you and your family can be very proud of.
    I pray that the legacy of Sam’s life would be a blessing to your family throughout the generations.
    May God grant you peace, comfort, and rest during this time of great loss.

  • Brian Lambert
    Posted August 28, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Rest in Peace Jump Master, we will continue to support the troops. You had an impact on any and your legacy continues through them. We will keep your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Scott and Catherine Jackson and Samm🐶
    Posted August 28, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Words cannot express the sadness we are feeling. We were so fortunately to have Sam as a neighbor and friend if only for a short time . He made most of us feel special. He appreciated everything we did whether small or big. I considered Sam as the Guardian of all of us in this neighborhood. I don’t think their was a project going on here that Sam didn’t show up tools and all. He loved helping all. Sam was the kindness, thoughtful, helpful
    and caring person I have ever met. He also loved all the dogs here. He would stop what he was doing, get down to their level and play with each and always with a treat. My dog is still looking for.
    God bless you Sam, I am sure you are helping Him out also.🙏😢❤️

  • Anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:43 am

    Iam so sorry, rest in peace sam !

  • Rob Moreschi
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:03 am

    One of the truest human beings to grace God’s earth….& even a better soldier! He cared for his troops and trained us hard! He will be missed by more than one can know. Sincere thoughts and prayers to the whole family from the Moreschi’s. Till Valhalla Brother…AIRBORNE Arctic Warrior!

  • Kimberly and Steve
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Dear Michelle, You and your family are in our daily prayers as you mourn the loss of the love of your life. The grief is huge but his legacy is larger than life! You now have the very best guardian angel watching over you.

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