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Let's tell tales of heroes
Guest viewpoint

On July 4, 1945, President Harry S. Truman said, "This year, the men and women of our armed forces, and many civilians as well, are celebrating the anniversary of American Independence in other countries throughout the world.

"Citizens of these other lands will understand what we celebrate and why, for freedom is dear to the hearts of all men everywhere. In other lands, others will join us in honoring our declaration that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

This Fourth of July will be no different. Many of America's sons and daughters are spending this Independence Day in the mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq working tirelessly to nourish the seeds of freedom that we planted just a few years ago.

I have watched our nation grow weary of the fighting and yearn for an end to this struggle. This war has touched Americans on a very personal level. Our technological strides in instant communication, delivering news as it happens, 24 hours a day, have enabled us as a society to live each loss one at a time.

For many, this is an exhausting and crushing experience. But this is a glimpse into the reality of the life of the American soldier, with a firsthand look at the level of sacrifice that may be expected from them. The same sacrifice has been made by generations of Americans to preserve the precious gift of freedom we celebrate today. There is no doubt that this inundation of war images has had a profound effect on Americans, but I fear that what we are experiencing is incomplete.

Despite these nightly images, there are other elements of the global war on terror to which we are very rarely exposed: stories of unparalleled courage, brotherly love, and amazing stories of heroism and self-sacrifice. I have not heard any of our media outlets tell the story of Marine Corps Sgt. Jeremiah Workman.

Workman was operating with his squad in Fallujah, Iraq, when he was alerted that insurgents had pinned down Marines in a nearby building. Workman directed his team to the location and laid down a heavy stream of machine gun fire allowing some of the Marines to escape. After securing the Marines from the first extract, Workman returned to the location to extract the remaining Marines. In the battle, Workman sustained a grenade blast and was severely wounded. Despite his wounds, he led his team back to the location for a third extract and was successful in retrieving all of the remaining Marines. This amazing display of sacrifice and courage earned Workman the distinguished Navy Cross.

Much like Workman, the untold story of Army Major Ryan Worthan is one of pure inspiration. On the morning of September 29, 2003, then-Capt. Worthan, stationed at the Shkin Fire Base in Afghanistan, received word that one of his platoons on patrol had come under heavy enemy fire. This was the beginning of a 12-hour battle. Worthan quickly directed fire support from the base, but when the platoon took casualties, he exited the safety of the bunker and charged to the front line of the battlefield.

From the front line, he directed the evacuation of casualties, marked enemy positions and directed fire toward them. He then led the platoon through the 150-meter-deep, 500-meter-wide valley and continued coordinating attacks on enemy forces. This extraordinary effort saved countless lives and earned Worthan the Silver Star.

These are just a couple of the literally hundreds of stories just like them. We mourn those who give their lives for freedom, and we honor them. Let us also be sure to recognize the spectacular achievements and successes, and celebrate them. Let's tell the stories of our heroes so that generations of Americans who follow know the great courage out of which this great nation was born, and that when called upon to rise to the occasion, we did just that.

In his great speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Ronald Reagan spoke of freedom saying, "after these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor."

I believe these words are true, and with the heroism of men and women like Worthan and Workman, we will see peace and prosperity where there is conflict, and freedom will have led us there.

Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992.