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Navy Vet Writes Names to Remember Afghanistan Fallen

9:07 PM, Mar 4, 2013   |    comments
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(NBC NEWS) -- A moving tribute took shape on Thursday in downtown Fort Worth, one name at a time.

Local Navy veteran Ron White spent the day writing the name of every service member, CIA agent and civilian contractor killed during the war in Afghanistan. That's more than 2,200 names and 7,000 words, when rank is included, spanning the 50-foot-long wall that is seven-feet tall.

"The sacrifice is huge, it's big and it's real," White said.

White spent the day in Burnett Plaza, just across from where he lives in downtown, writing the names so that people remember those who gave their lives for our country.

"I just wanted to acknowledge that each person who died was an individual person," White said. "You know, Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin Adam and LCPL. Leopold Damas, they were all moms and dads, brothers and sisters and they were each individual people."

White, who served a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan himself, didn't know anyone on this wall.

"They were a couple miles from me when they died, but I didn't know them," White said.

At least, not until he started memorizing their names 10 months ago and hearing from their families.

"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."

Christine Smithson was among those thanking White on Thursday. Smithson, who usually works from home, happened to be training at the nearby Burnett Building. On her lunch break she found the name of a man 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."

Families like that of Weatherford soldier PFC. Austin Staggs, who was killed in action in Nov. 2010.

"It made me real happy to make think that someone is still thinking about our boys that gave their lives," said Staggs' grandmother Maryanne Buckner. "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."

White's goals for his America's Memory project is two-fold.

First, he is using his amazing memorization skills to help raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project and second, so that no soldier is forgotten. For more information about the America's Memory project click here.

"Don't forget," he said. "We say never forget, but never forget."

It takes White about eight hours to write all the names from memory. He writes the names in order of when they were killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. He plans on taking the wall to 30 or 40 cities throughout this year, but wanted to start in his hometown.

The wall is set to be taken down by Thursday night.

 

NBC News

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