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Game of their lives: A blood-soaked gridiron page 2
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on the Unknown Soldiers: The game of their lives

 Sgt. Stephen Stoops (right) receives the Bronze Star with valor.
Photo courtesy of Michael Blalack
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Date published: 10/11/2012

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"I couldn't find a pulse," Stoops said. "So I kind of just put my hands on his neck to try and keep some sort of pressure on it."

"I was screaming 'I need a medic' the whole time," he added.

Pfc. Napier, 20, of London, Ky., died from his wounds. The tragic loss of the popular, caring soldier, who was enjoying a game of football with his brothers in arms moments before he was shot, devastated the unit.

"It was really hard on the platoon when we were down there," Stoops said, while adding that a memorial service held after the soldiers returned from Afghanistan honored Napier and his family.

The other soldier initially struck by the gunman, Spc. Bolan, survived the attack.

"After the incident, when he was awake we got to talk to him a little bit," Stoops said. "He just wanted to come back to us."

A third soldier, who was shot in the leg, also survived. But if not for the gallantry displayed by Lewis and Stoops, more brave Americans would almost certainly have been killed.

When I asked Stoops how he mustered the courage to fight back, his answer was short and simple.

"You just treat everyone like they're your enemy," he said.

According to the Army, Sgt. Jacob Lewis will receive the Silver Star for his selfless actions on Jan. 8. Sgt. Stoops was awarded the Bronze Star with valor.

"His heroic actions and complete disregard for his own safety during an enemy attack on Forward Operating Base Apache in Afghanistan saved the lives of his fellow soldiers," Stoops' award citation reads.

Millions of Americans play football in backyards, streets and parks. Millions more watch the sport on television.

The harrowing story told by Sgt. Stephen Stoops should remind us that our nation's real heroes aren't the men playing games in football stadiums. They are the men and women still fighting a war in Afghanistan.

Tom Sileo is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.


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