Because it’s only days after Veterans Day, I figured it would be appropriate to digress from the standard editorial and, instead, tell a story.

This is a story that perhaps some of you have already heard (as there has been a book published and a documentary film made) but I would wager that most people have not.

It is a story about the War in Afghanistan – a war from which the average Unites States citizen is very detached.

Juan Sebastian Restrepo was a combat medic who was killed in Afghanistan on July 22, 2007.

His name isn’t as recognizable to the general population as Audie Murphy or James Doolittle was in WWII but, among his peers, he is equally as famous.

Indeed, they named a forward observation post in his honor.  The observation post is located in the same valley as his death: the Korengal Valley.  This valley also happened to be the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.

Two journalists, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, followed the 173 Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 503 Infantry Regiment through their 15-month stay at this forward observation post.

In doing so, they were able to gather some of the most detailed footage of modern U.S. combat troops.

This combat footage isn’t just for entertainment value either; it is being used to understand how the U.S. fights its wars and what can be done better.

During one engagement, the men of the 503 were ambushed on three sides.  This engagement is particularly special not because of how it occurred but because of how the squad reacted.

It would be impossible for me to put to words the grit of this battle any better than Mr. Junker has done, so I won’t even try.

Rather, I want to make it a point to honor the heroism of the men involved.  Within the first seconds of the fight, nearly everyone in the squad had been shot – one member so badly that he had been incapacitated.

Instead of retreating, which is the response I imagine most sane people would do, the remaining members of the squad ran forward to their downed comrade.

Even after taking more hits from enemy fire, the squad was able to retrieve their wounded brother in arms and return him to safety.  Unfortunately, he died.

But that is not the entire story.  The important part is that this fire-fight lasted barely minutes.   This means that the actions taken by the squad were inherent, second nature, without thought.

These men and women overseas are a separate breed.  Without thought of consequence they rush to the aid of each other, something not very familiar to those back here in America.

This is what Veterans Day is all about – honoring those who are selfless by nature: our service men and women.


William Pearson can be contacted at


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