What is a hero? Thoughts from Capitol Hill

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American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have for seven years now been fighting insurgents in distant lands.

Arguments about the course of the wars in Washington and in the media matter little to the men and women who put on the gear and head into the fight every day.

They laugh at the absurdity around them, but when their environment turns deadly, they turn deadly serious.

They are the personification of the common man made uncommon by their commitment to one another and to the task at hand. Their story is a study in how the Texan and the Tennessean learn to work with the boys from Chicago and Cincinnati, and distill into unity and fierceness, carrying on an American tradition that found its voice in Lexington and Concord.

Cindy Fisher spent time with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion on Okinawa, Japan, who were ambushed in the Jazeera Desert in western Iraq. They lost a Marine. The insurgents who ambushed them never saw another morning.

Thomas Ruyle caught up with the National Guard’s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, leaving Fort Bragg, N.C., for another deployment to Iraq. What sustains them is the strength of their families, who understand the gravity of the situation and accept it with sadness but determination.

Kent Harris talked with the proud members of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment who endured a withering attack at Wanat, Afghanistan. They lost nine good men in the deadliest single battle for American soldiers since the U.S. invasion.

And the storm clouds will only increase in the days ahead.

Yet these soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors take their orders and move out.

In this section, Stars and Stripes, the newspaper covering U.S. servicemembers around the world, looks at the deeds that have earned medals of valor for the servicemembers. Those included stand as surrogates for the thousands of others so recognized.

Stripes focused on the highest honors given for valor in a war zone, irrespective of rank. This section pays tribute to the war-fighter.

It is up to us to remember the deeds of those who have been in the arena, faces covered in dust and sweat and blood, while we go about our daily lives.

This publication captures but a glimpse of the deeds U.S. servicemembers have performed in distant lands.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, as Winston Churchill famously said. This is indeed their "finest hour."

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