A Real American Hero

by Dan Knecht | 11/22/04 6:00am

All too often we forget the sacrifices that people make to ensure a brighter future for us. We lose touch with the most important issues of our lives while harping on the most trivial. Three weeks ago, an event that occurred more than 3,000 miles away, shook my hometown and awoke me to the great sacrifices American soldiers are making for our country and our future.

On Oct. 31, a marine was killed while on patrol outside of Baghdad. A roadside bomb planted by insurgents detonated underneath his Humvee. Although there have been more than 1,000 American casualties since the onset of the war, this death had a personal affect on me. He was Marine First Lieutenant Matthew Lynch, a native of Jericho, N. Y. and a fellow graduate of Jericho High School. Although Matt Lynch graduated from Jericho High School almost eight years ago, teachers, coaches and others fortunate enough to have known him, cherish their memories of this scholar-athlete. Matthew Lynch was captain of both the baseball and swim teams at Jericho. He set a shining example for other classmates as he excelled in both academic and athletic arenas. His athletic records, still visible on the walls of our high school, bear testament to his success. From high school up until his death, Lynch served as a role model for others, through his actions and his encouraging words to all around him. At Jericho High School's annual homecoming celebration, Lynch emceed the Friday night pre-football game ceremonies. Though several years have passed since then, I still remember how Matt electrified the crowd with his positive energy and enthusiasm as he announced the names of the Jericho football players, including my brother's. I don't think I will ever forget the excitement Matt generated that night.

Matthew Lynch would move on to Duke, where he competed on the swimming and baseball teams. During summer breaks, Matt worked as a Jones Beach, N.Y. lifeguard. According to his coworkers, Lynch made numerous rescues from the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed as if service to others flowed through Matthew's veins. Upon graduating Duke in 2001, he proudly followed in the footsteps of his father and brother. Matthew enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing officer training, Lynch was one of the first marines to serve in Iraq. Lynch unhesitatingly served two tours of service and thereafter had the option of returning home. He had already been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Despite the fact that the situation in Iraq had deteriorated, or perhaps because of it, Lynch decided to volunteer for a third tour of duty. Nothing could keep Lynch from serving his country in a time of need. He wanted to fight alongside his comrades and support them. He left America for Iraq on Aug. 31, but would never return.

Some viewed Lynch's third tour to an increasingly hostile Iraq as tempting fate or just too risky. Lynch however, knew he needed to continue to serve our country through its darker hours. He knew that as Americans, we are blessed with unparalleled freedom and equality, and thus we should be willing to die for our country, if need be. Undoubtedly, Matthew Lynch's courage and strength inspired the Second Battalion of the Fifth Marine regiment, his men, to continue their fight for the liberation of Iraq. While most of us ponder holiday gifts, snowfall or sweet potato pie, our soldiers are fighting and dying in a distant desert for our country and our way of life.

Marine First Lieutenant Matthew Lynch is a true American hero. Though his death is immensely painful for his family, friends and the community, we can take solace in the fact that Matthew died the way he lived, serving America and us. Matthew Lynch's promising life was cut too short, he had many more people on his road of life to meet and positively influence. However, for those who were lucky enough to be touched by this special person, we will never forget his bravery, leadership and dedication. Moreover, it is through the sacrifice and dedication to America and its values by some of our greatest people that our country continues to prosper and spread liberty and freedom throughout the world. All our soldiers, in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are our present-day heroes. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for true heroes like Matthew Lynch. I am thankful that our soldiers believe in our country and the American people. I am thankful for their sacrifices that we can continue to pursue our dreams.

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