Very few Americans can know how they would react in danger. We have, by and large, been given health, safety and prosperity. As such, many grow up indifferent to troubles not set before them.

But there are those who were raised to understand duty. They have been inspired by the country’s highest ideals, and follow in its greatest traditions. They see wrong and try to right it; they see tyranny and understand that someone out there needs a hand.

It may be that soon we’ll speak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as entering a new decade. The unrealistic expectations of the public, who watched with nervous fascination in its early weeks and months, have died away. Much of the media coverage also has evaporated.

None of this matters to the warfighter. He puts his gear on and goes to work. There will be time later for reflection. For now, there are houses to clear and villages to secure.

In this special section, Stars and Stripes, the congressionally authorized, independent newspaper for the military, looks at the deeds that have earned medals of valor for the servicemembers profiled in these stories. They stand as surrogates for the thousands of others so honored.

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

To each soldier, Marine, sailor or airman who steps up and does the right thing — who reacts with violence when his comrades are threatened, who comforts a frightened Iraqi child in the wake of such violence, and to the families that ache for them — you are never alone.

We salute you.

— Patrick Dickson

Stripes in 7

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