Since President Obama took office, the war in Afghanistan has become an invisible war, and the men and women who served and died there are largely ignored. Even while President Bush was in office, the media noted their deaths, not to honor their sacrifice, but simply to remind Americans that the media really didn’t like the fact that George Bush had led the nation into overseas wars.
To one man, though, each person who has died in Afghanistan is an individual who deserves to be remembered. Says Navy Veteran Ron White, who served in Afghanistan in 2007, “They were all moms and dads and brothers and sisters.”
Veteran Ron White Writes Names of 2,200 Killed in Afghanistan From Memory
To commemorate each of these lives, White has undertaken the massive task of remember every slain service member’s name and rank. That’s over 2,200 troops to remember. Then, both as a way of honoring the dead and to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Foundation, White, working with a white pen and a black board, writes done every single name and rank. The entire effort takes him eight hours.
White has kept people informed about his project at his website “Americas Memory.” Through that website, people who knew those who have died, or just respect White’s efforts, have gotten into contact with him to share stories. They’ve also been curious about his feat.
In response to a question from Jennifer Swinney, whose brother Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Ryan Giese, is among the names memorized, White explained a little bit about his technique, which relies upon associating names with geographic sites in his life.
I know his name well. I use locations around downtown Ft. Worth [his hometown] to remember the names. Your brother is in the hallway of my building where I live in the entry way greeting me every time I walk in or out. Thank you so much for telling me who he was.
White told NBC News in Fort Worth that people are very grateful for his effort on behalf of their loved ones.
“They tell me who they were, about their character, about their bravery and their courage,” White said. “And I’m a better person for hearing those stories. People are always thanking me for doing this, but I’ve become a better person by doing it.”
So far, White has only performed his eight-hour feat publicly in his home town of Fort Worth. His ultimate goal, though, is to create his handwritten Afhganistan War Wall in thirty to forty cities across the United States.
Considering the positive reaction White received in Fort Worth, his wall should be a very way good to remember those who have died. Christine Smithson, who witnessed White’s feat, told the local NBC News reporter that she was very moved by the list of names, as she had found the name of a specialist who had served with her son.
“It just hits because he’s a specialist and my son is a specialist,” Smithson said. “What he’s doing is, it’s almost like getting a card from home. That he’s doing this and it’s saying, ‘we’re still here.’ And it’s a comfort, and I’m sure it’s a comfort to the families.”
Even those who have had the pain of seeing their own family member’s name show upon on White’s wall have found comfort in it. Maryanne Bruckner, whose grandson PFC Austin Staggs was killed in action in Afghanistan in November 2010, was genuinely happy that someone kept his memory alive outside of the family.
“It made me real happy to make think that someone is still thinking about our boys that gave their lives. I don’t want him to be forgotten, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that he’s not forgotten. That’s why I’m here today.”
Whether or not one believes in an afterlife, all of us live on as long as someone remembered that we once walked the earth. White’s project is a true gift, in that it gives every man and woman who served and died a little bit of immortality.
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