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by: Jake Johnson

The word “hero” is thrown around these days a great deal. Usually the word follows some sort of tragic event where individuals did something unselfish to save other people and putting themselves in harm’s way.

Sometimes it’s the guy returning home from war with a chest full of medals and ribbons or the unit coming home from a year long deployment with signs saying “Welcome Home Heroes!” being waved in the crowd.

Then there are the men and women who returned home, but in a box covered by an American flag carried by solemn men in uniform back to their hometown to be laid to rest. Laying under that flag, they will be driven down roads they probably used to cruise in high school on summer evenings looking for trouble or just something to do. However, on this final trip through town, the roads are lined with people paying tribute to someone who made the ultimate sacrifice.

That sacrifice is what separates something heroic from a hero. A true hero is someone whose story is no longer being written. The heroes we are remembering today had their story cut short, and did so for you, me and for their country. They didn’t do it for glory, or honor or even politics. As soon as that first bullet flies overhead in combat, all the things we think important in life are stripped away and we are left with only the things which are most important.

Be it race, politics, religion, social upbringing, financial status; none of it mattered over there. We leaned upon each other for strength and fought as one force against evil and for those who could not fight for themselves. We were a microcosm of the America that so many have given their lives for before us. An idea of what America was, can be and still is. As long as we have young men and women like the ones that I fought with that believe in that idea of America, she will continue to live on through the generations.

You see, those are the real heroes to me. Myself and those of us that came home from war aren’t heroes, no matter how brave or courageous we fought to earn the medals we wear. We smile and thank anyone if they refer to us as such, but inside we feel a tinge of guilt.

We aren’t heroes, I’m sure not at least.

I’m still going to make selfish choices from time to time. I’m going to let down my wife, my family and my children at some point.

I will let down my fellow brothers that came home by not calling and keeping up with them enough now that we are scattered across the country, some still overseas fighting a war we have all forgotten about.

But ultimately, I will let down the guys that gave their lives so that I would be able to still make these selfish choices.

The memory of what they gave is my daily reminder that it is our responsibility to them to build upon this great idea of American Life. Their final choice was one completely pure and completely unselfish, to give the one thing that you can never get back.

A real hero is someone who has given that life and laid it upon the altar of freedom as Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “so that others may live under that blanket of freedom.”

To me, all of the real heroes are dead.

Today, take time from however you choose to celebrate those lost by taking a moment and thinking about the choice that those heroes have made for us. Celebrate their lives and remember their sacrifices so that we will always know what true sacrifice, and true heroes look like. By doing that this weekend and all the days in between, we can ensure that the real heroes continue to walk side by side with us as we continue to build on the legacy that they have left for us.

NEVER FORGET.

IN HONOR OF:

GYSGT CHRISTOPHER H. EASTMAN

SSGT ADAM L. PERKINS

SGT DONALD J. LAMAR

CPL DAANE A. DEBOER

LCPL CHRISTOPHER RODGERS

LCPL FREDERIK E. VAZQUEZ

LCPL JOSHUA M. DAVIS

LCPL KEVIN M. CORNELIUS

LCPL RICHARD PENNY

LCPL THOMAS E. RIVERS JR.

LCPL TYLER O. GRIFFIN

LCPL WILLIAM T. RICHARDS

PFC VINCENT E. GAMMONE

AND

SGT TREY HUFF

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