Paul Greenberg
The cynics say there are no more heroes, but a brief glance at the obituaries is enough to refute any such claim. For example:

Vincent Owens, 21, of Fort Smith, Ark. promoted posthumously to sergeant after he died of wounds suffered when his unit came under fire March 1, 2010, at Yosuf Khel, Afghanistan,. He'd already been nicknamed Sergeant Major by his men -- in honor of his drive and determination. His men didn't realize how badly he'd been wounded. He didn't let them know. First he had to get them and their truck out of the line of fire. Later there would be time to die.

Back home in Fort Smith -- and earlier in Spiro, Oklahoma, just across the state line -- Vincent Owens could have been taken for just another good old boy who liked to work with his hands. In Afghanistan, he'd even tried souping up his Army truck. He had a thing for motorcycles. His blue Suzuki GSRX 1000, still waiting for him, was parked in the church foyer for his funeral service in Spiro, his helmet and a bouquet of flowers in the seat. The funeral procession from the church in Spiro to the Fort Smith National Cemetery included more than a hundred of his fellow bikers.

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Still a newlywed, he'd married just this January while on leave after one tour of duty in Iraq. He'd shipped out to Afghanistan in February.

Adam Lee Brown, 36, originally of Hot Springs, Ark., was a veteran Navy SEAL, as his decorations, including a Bronze Star with a combat V for valor, attested. He, too, would die of wounds received in Afghanistan after having served in Iraq. He'd enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Lake Hamilton High in Pearcy, Ark., and attending Arkansas Tech in Russellville, where he played football. He is survived by his wife, Kelley, their two children, his parents and a grateful nation.

At the other end of life's spectrum, Modesto Cartagena, 87, of Guayama, Puerto Rico, U.S.A., has died more than half a century after his outfit landed at Pusan, Korea. Allied forces would be reduced to a toehold, 80 by 50 miles, after North Korean forces attacked across the 38th Parallel.

Over the next three years, Army Sgt. Cartagena would participate in nine major battles, including one to protect the escape route for the Marines' famous retreat ("an advance in a different direction") from the Chosin Reservoir.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.