Image courtesy: Tech Sgt. Michael Reynolds
Spc. James Story was running some errands for his mother in Bedford, Va., when he noticed smoke above a house, billowing into the evening light. It could have been a bonfire, the soldier recently told Sgt. Grant Matthes, but as he drove closer, Spc. Story and his cousin determined that the home itself was on fire.
Instead of making a phone call and waiting for the fire department, Story and his cousin burst into the residence and woke up its three sleeping occupants.
"It took about five minutes to get them out of the house," he said.
The soldier and his relative saved three lives that day in southern Virginia. But this lifesaving Story continues half a world in Afghanistan, where the automated field artillery specialist is serving a combat tour with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.
At Bagram Air Field on Thursday, February 24, paratroopers paused to honor the hero in their midst.
"The fact that we have a Soldier in our ranks who really does live the Army values ... really is the epitome of professionalism," Maj. Gen. James Huggins, 82nd Airborne Division commander, said while presenting the Soldier's Medal to Spc. Story.
The men and women pursuing terrorists and protecting civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq are not downtrodden members of society with no other choice but to fight in war. They are the very best our country has to offer.
Until Tuesday, the stellar American roster of volunteer warriors serving in southwest Asia included Cpl. Johnathan Taylor. According to the Pentagon, he was killed on February 22 while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand province. The 23-year-old Marine hailed from Homosassa, Florida.
The Department of Defense also reported the February 21 death of Sgt. Robert Sisson Jr. in Kandahar district. The 29-year-old Aliquippa, Pa., soldier's death is listed as a non-combat related incident, and is currently under investigation.
Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter, 27, of Columbia, Tenn., died February 19 of injuries sustained on Valentine's Day while conducting combat operations in Helmand province. On Monday, I will attend this fallen Marine's funeral service to show support for a family in crisis and a Marine Corps that continues to fight with honor and valor. You will be able to read more about this American hero's life in an upcoming Creators Syndicate column.
I believe in our men and women serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world. They consistently and selflessly complete their missions, regardless of political infighting back home or a national media that long ago stopped caring about America's post-9/11 conflicts. The attitude of Spc. James Story says it all: rather than wait for others to step up and save lives, he'll plunge head-first into the fire.