Due our greatest honor

Published 9:34 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

News this week about the heroic death in action of one of the nation’s very finest fighting men reminds us just how much there is at stake each time the men and women of our military pick up their duffel bags and open the door at home to head out into the unknown.

The Pentagon has confirmed that Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque of Monroeville, Pa., a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, which is stationed in Dam Neck, died of combat-related injuries received in the midst of a weekend mission in which SEALS rescued an American doctor who had been taken hostage in eastern Afghanistan while on a humanitarian mission.

U.S. Navy SEALS have borne a heavy load during America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been on the scene of some of the military’s greatest victories (the killing of Osama bin Laden, for instance) and some of its great modern tragedies (the crash of a helicopter in Afghanistan in 2011, for example, which killed 30 Americans, nearly all from SEAL Team 6). Their valor and honor in the midst of both the victories and the tragedies is without match in modern times.

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Checque’s death also reminds us of the great dedication he and other SEALS have for protecting Americans by carrying out the military missions they are given. When it became clear that Dr. Dilip Joseph of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Morning Star Development was in imminent danger at the hands of his kidnappers in Afghanistan, the SEALs moved in for the rescue. Dr. Joseph is safe now because of that selflessness.

We are further reminded this week that heroism takes place throughout the nation’s military and in ways that always don’t grab such bold headlines as pre-dawn raids or midnight rescues.

Pfc. Wayland Pearce of Suffolk has earned the Army Achievement Medal for just such an act. In October, when Bagram Airfield came under indirect fire, Pearce and other soldiers found themselves hunkered down in a bunker after an explosion. A civilian suddenly fell into the ditch, his hands a bloody mess, and Pearce risked the chance of a continuing attack to jump out of the bunker, find a first aid kit and return to help the civilian.

There are so many young American men and women in harm’s way halfway around the world today that it seems insufficient to select just two for praise here. But these men represent the best our nation has to offer. They deserve our highest praise, our deepest gratitude and, especially in the case of Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, our greatest honor.