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Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:47AM - 147 Views

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In June 2005, a four-man SEAL team under the command of Navy Lt. Mike Murphy was in search of a dangerous Taliban leader in the Kush Hindu mountains of Afghanistan when the team was attacked by a numerically superior force. All of the team members were wounded early in the fight. When the radio would not transmit, Lt. Murphy walked into an open area exposing himself to enemy fire and successfully placed a call for a rescue extraction. Lt. Murphy and two other members died of their wounds. One team member survived to tell the tale. Clearly, the common element is others before self.There is still another Marine whose selflessness saved the lives of others while costing him his own. Sgt. Rafael Peralta of the 3rd Marines was killed in Fallujah in November 2004 when he, too, covered a live hand grenade to save those near him. He will likely receive the Medal of Honor in the next few months. Rafael Peralta was not an American citizen when he joined the Marine Corps. His parents had sent him across the border from Tijuana to San Diego to live with relatives when he was a boy. Yes, he was an illegal immigrant.Yet, these are not the only selfless heroes in the 6-year-old war in Iraq/Afghanistan. There have been 34 fighting men who have received a Cross of Valor (the second-highest award for bravery) and 377 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have received the Silver Star for heroism (one of whom is the first woman to receive the Silver Star since World War II).Where do we get such people? Places like Lima. Limaites have acted to preserve the memories of their Medal of Honor heroes. Metzger Reservoir is named for Lt. William E. Metzger Jr., a B17 co-pilot who died trying to save a crew member. The local Marine Corps League Detachment is named for Pfc. Leonard F. Mason, who saved his platoon by single-handedly attacking and destroying an enemy machine gun position. Again, others before self.There are 105 Medal of Honor recipients from World War II, Korea and Vietnam currently living today. The oldest is 99-year-old John Finn, who was decorated for his actions at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The youngest is Gordon Roberts, a 58-year-old Vietnam veteran, who had just turned 19 the month before he saved his entire platoon from annihilation. For their part, they are celebrating Medal of Honor Day by hosting “Above and Beyond” on MSNBC from the Kennedy Center on Tuesday evenings. They will recognize civilians who through their sacrifice have helped others.On Tuesday, we should ask ourselves what we can do to preserve the memory of all 3,446 Medal of Honor heroes. The Medal of Honor was our initial effort to thank them for their sacrifice. Although we can never thank them enough, we should never stop trying.Lawrence A. Huffman is a Lima attorney and a Marine Corps veteran.



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