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(VOA Editorial)  (470)
(Following is an editorial, to be broadcast by the Voice of America May
31, reflecting American ideals and institutions.)
Today Americans celebrate Memorial Day -- a time to honor those who have
given their lives in defense of their country.  They include a 21-year-old
schoolteacher named Nathan Hale.
As a captain in the Continental Army during America's War for Independence,
Hale volunteered for a dangerous intelligence mission behind enemy lines.
Captured and sentenced to death by the British, Hale won the admiration of
his foes and his fellow Americans for his dignity, courage, and devotion to
duty.  As the hangman's noose was placed around his neck, Hale remarked, "I
only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
As the world's oldest government dedicated to freedom and equality under
law, the United States has a special reason to honor the bravery of those
who died in defense of these principles.  For many years, however, no
special medal or decoration was awarded by the American military for
exceptional heroism.  But the Civil War tested the courage and devotion of
Americans as no other conflict before or since.  Over two million Americans
took part in the Civil War, and nearly one out of every three was killed or
To honor the bravest of the brave, the U.S. Congress, in 1861, authorized a
decoration called the Medal of Honor, to be presented by the president on
behalf of Congress and the American people.  The Medal of Honor is awarded
to American soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen "for conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life and beyond the call of duty."
 In a moment of supreme crisis, these Americans chose to put the life of
their country and the safety of their comrades-in-arms ahead of their own
life and safety.
One such hero was Marine Lance Corporal Richard Anderson.  During a
desperate battle with Vietnamese Communist troops in August 1969, Anderson
was badly wounded in both legs.  He continued to fire at the enemy --
repulsing their attack and sustaining a third serious wound.  Moments
later, a live hand grenade landed near Corporal Anderson and his fellow
marines.  Covering the exploding grenade with his body, Anderson was
instantly killed.  But he had saved the lives of his friends.
For those slain Americans whose bodies were never recovered and whose last
acts of heroism are known only to God, a Medal of Honor has been placed at
the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.  They share
with all of America's war dead a tribute paid by Admiral Chester Nimitz to
the Americans he led in the Second World War.  Among them, he said,
"Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

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