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Character, Personified

During the bloody house-to-house battle of Fallujah in 2004, Private Sean Stokes routinely performed the most dangerous duty – point man, kicking in doors to expose enemy ambushes – and he had to beg the Marine Corps to let him do it.   


Wounded at least twice, Stokes concealed his injuries for days to avoid mandatory medical evacuation.  He refused to leave his buddies in the middle of a battle.  During the fighting, he proved himself to be a preeminent warrior, personally killing at least nine al-Qaeda fighters and inspiring the rest of the men in his platoon.


Marine privates don't often win high military decorations; private is a punishment rank in the Corps.  That's why the Silver Star awarded to Stokes for his courage under fire in the battle of Fallujah is such a tremendous achievement, a powerful testament to his strength of character, and worthy of the national news coverage provided by NBC, ABC and many newspapers. 


Stokes was killed in 2007 in dangerous al-Anbar Province, during his third tour in Iraq.  His father accepted the medal in a posthumous ceremony at Camp Pendleton, California on Wednesday, February 6, Stokes's 25th birthday.  (Read the NewsBusters blog by MRC's Brent Baker for analysis of the news coverage.)


While stationed at Camp Pendleton in 2003, Lance Corporal Stokes went AWOL in order to help a relative escape a life-threatening domestic emergency.  When he returned to base, he flunked a drug test for marijuana.  Busted to private, the lowest rank in the Marine Corps, Stokes avoided being discharged by volunteering to join a front-line combat unit in Iraq.  The private fought brilliantly with the First Platoon, Lima Company, Third Battalion, First Marines, one of the units spearheading the American assault on al-Qaeda's fortress city, Fallujah.


Military historian Patrick K. O'Donnell, embedded with First Platoon during the battle, described Stokes as “the noblest person I've met in my life.” 


Stokes distinguished himself on the field of battle in his first tour in Iraq, and performed so well in his second tour that he earned promotion beyond PFC and Lance Corporal to Corporal, a rare accomplishment for a Marine with a drug infraction.  All Sean Stokes wanted to do was be a Marine, defend his country and protect his buddies, but he had to fight to remain in uniform.  Stokes returned to Iraq for the third time knowing the Corps was almost certain to discharge him after he completed the tour. Friends told him there was no point in going back to Iraq, but he replied he didn't feel right about leaving before the job was done and while his friends were still in harm's way.   


During his third tour of duty Stokes earned another high honor, assignment to his battalion commander's personal security detachment.  The commander credited Stokes with saving his life when Stokes was mortally wounded by an IED.


Sean Stokes exemplified courage, perseverance, loyalty, patriotism and selflessness. 


Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.