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Remembering the bravery of Maung P. Htaik

January 09, 2011
  • Maung P. Htaik
Submitted Photo

The family of Maung P. "Sam" Htaik came to America from Southeast Asia in 2002 seeking good schools and, it might have been assumed, a more peaceful nation than the violent Myanmar that they had left in 1998.

The education was forthcoming. Htaik earned honors at Smithsburg High School, from which he graduated two years ago. He went on to join the Marine Corps, and was assigned to Afghanistan in July.

America's wars in the Middle East have plodded along for so long now that they often seem as background noise. For a decade, they have slowly bled lives and treasure, a necessary evil in the hopes of keeping terrorism at bay overseas so it does not spread to our shores. It is all too easy to grow accustomed to.

Then, like a bolt from the blue, we learn that one of our own has been lost. It's a slap that should remind us of the sacrifice of our men and women overseas and their commitment to protect our comfort through their own discomfort. Htaik, a member of a Marine expeditionary force, died on New Year's Day in support of a combat operation in Afghanistan.

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We mourn along with his family and friends, while at the same time we celebrate his bravery and determination to serve the nation that became his own the moment he stepped upon our shores.

This is the greatness of America and the greatness of men and women such as Htaik. Sometimes, those of us who have been here all our lives forget what we have. We forget that many of those looking in see us as a model of freedom and justice, attributes that many nations lack. Htaik had been here a relatively short time when he joined the fight to protect his country.

Htaik is not the first. Many have arrived in America from another nation and almost immediately put their lives on the line for her, and for us. This takes the combination of special people and a special nation. 

Htaik, as Lincoln might have said, will not have died in vain if those of us who have been touched by his life, or read about his devotion, can allow this young man's story to renew our gratitude for all soldiers overseas, their mission and their heroism.

We thank young Sam, we thank his family and we thank his comrades in arms. Htaik's bravery and his ultimate sacrifice remind us that war is not far away and out of mind. For all of us, it is very personal and deserves to be remembered as such.

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