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I was reading Medal of Honor citations and something really stuck with me. The recipient’s heroism is often shadowed by dead men. For example, one soldier’s unit came under fire, and the lieutenant led a counter-charge before swiftly getting cut down. The recipient took over the charge, storming the position and killing several of the enemy. We know little of this dead officer, the dead man fading into the background. Could he have fought side by side with the honored recipient all the way through the end? Would he have risen to the occasion later, saving other soldiers with his service? Could he have been a successful man civilian life — a father, a gentleman, a businessman, a scholar, or even a hero in his civilian life? We don’t know, and can’t know, and he falls into a sea of stories that few remember.
This is not out of neglect or malice. There are literally so many stories of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen lost in battle that no one can remember them all. That’s why we have Memorial Day — a day for the dead men in the background of our country, the people who died so we remain free, since each of their lives matters. This is not a movie with stars and extras, this is a story of people much like us who gave up their lives.