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A fitting tribute

Sitting high above Williams Brice Stadium Saturday afternoon, the silence was amazing.

Just minutes into half time, the University of South Carolina band played a solitary version of "Taps" that bled into "Amazing Grace."

The usually raucous press box went silent.

The stands went quiet.

That's when the rumbling started. Seconds later, four fighter jets screamed just over the top of the stadium, rattling the press box windows and rousing the crowd.

And for the one moment, it was perhaps the best tribute to those serving and protecting our country.

Miles away - just down Interstate 20 in McDuffie County - a native son was returning home.

Earlier this year, PFC Darryl Wallace lost parts of both legs when the Humvee he was riding in was demolished by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The incident brought the war home to McDuffie County again.

And it goes without saying that it turned a young soldier's life upside down.

PFC Wallace had to endure hours of surgeries.

Which was just the precursor to hours of recovery.

Which was nothing compared to the days of rehab.

But it was all just bumps in the road back to McDuffie County.

Saturday completed the next step in his journey, as PFC Wallace and the cluster of family members that had gathered in Washington, D.C., finally came home to McDuffie County.

There'll certainly be a whirlwind of activity over the next few weeks as people stop by with well wishes. But it wouldn't surprise anyone if the man at the center of the attention tried to deftly step out of the limelight.

PFC Wallace embraces the idea of being just another soldier fighting for the cause.

But he's so much more.

In some circles, he's a tangible reminder of what's wrong with the war: Young men and women being sacrificed for reasons that become less distinct with each tragedy.

In others, he's a true hero: Someone who's willing to put his life on the line to better someone else's lot in life and protect our freedoms.

Saturday's tribute to the armed forces at the University of South Carolina closed with singing "God Bless America" and a call for prayers for those in the service.

And as 80,000 strong sang along, the message was clear: politics be damned, America will survive.

And so will PFC Darryl Wallace.

Web posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007

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