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Those who have sacrificed in war
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The first American to die in the American Revolution -- the first to die for a nation that would be dedicated to the freedom of humanity -- was Crispus Attucks. He died on March 5, 1770, in the Boston Massacre. Twenty years earlier, the Boston Gazette and Weekly Journal had described him as "about 27 Years of Age, named Crispus, 6 feet 2 inches high."
Future U.S. President John Adams, defending the British soldiers in court against charges of murder, said Attucks lunged at a British soldier, "and with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man down." Attucks was African-American.
George Washington needed Haym Solomon. Working with Robert Morris, the "financier of the Revolution," Solomon raised $600,000 for the Continental Army, a King's fortune -- so to speak. When Washington needed $20,000 to finance the Battle for Yorktown, Morris had to tell him that Congress's purse was empty. "Send for Haym Solomon," Washington replied. Solomon raised the $20,000, and Washington fought the Revolution's last battle and won. Solomon was Jewish-American.
At 18, Lawrence Taliaferro of Virginia volunteered to fight in the War of 1812. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he survived the Siege of Fort Erie. He remained in the Army at frontier posts until 1819, when President Monroe made him an Indian agent. Taliaferro won the respect and admiration of Indians for his "integrity and protection of the tribes against corruption." Taliaferro was Italian-American.
Robert Taylor was one of 19 men considered essential to ending World War I. Toward the end of the war, the German Army had tapped American military communications and were listening in to messages of troop movements. Taylor, who spoke Choctaw, volunteered as a "code talker" to transmit military secrets by radio and by telephone. The Germans, prepared for European languages, were baffled by the Native American language.
Some say the tide of battle turned within 24 hours of the employment of the code talkers. The 19 code talkers were not American citizens. They could not vote until 1924. Taylor, like all of them, was Choctaw-American.
Daniel Inouye fought in World War II. His regiment, the most decorated of the war, was awarded eight presidential citations and 21 Medals of Honor. Inouye volunteered at 17. He witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. A Red Cross-trained medical aide, Inouye was among the first to treat the wounded.
We have thousands of Americans who have given "the last full measure of devotion" in these wars, and many who yet struggle with the wounds these conflicts have left.
Which one of these soldiers is a "typical" American? They all are. This Memorial Day, let's pause and give thanks for each of them, living and deceased.
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist and political commentator.