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Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: The Other Fellow First
ATLANTA--While working as a summer camp counselor, future U.S. Army Spc. Douglas Green discovered a motto that would guide the rest of his life.
"It was 'the other fellow first,'" Spc. Green's mother, Suni Erlanger, told The Unknown Soldiers.
As a young boy growing up in the Northern Virginia suburbs, Doug played with toy Army men but also displayed a level of maturity that went far beyond his years.
"He was my hero way before he enlisted in the Army," Doug's mom said. "He was that boy in school who was against bullying, even when it was tolerated."
On Sept. 11, 2001, Doug, who was only 13, made clear that America's new war wouldn't be someone else's fight.
"He wanted to get al-Qaida for what they did to us," Suni said. "I knew something changed in Doug that day."
Doug spent his high school years doing everything from playing football to singing and dancing in school musicals. He also kept in touch with an Army recruiter, even though his parents worried deeply about the risks of serving in a post-9/11 world.
"He didn't have to go in," Doug's mother said. "He had a very sheltered life."
Doug volunteered on his 18th birthday and deployed to Iraq two years later.
"When his sergeant asked who would want to go out on special missions, Doug's hand was always going up first," Suni said.
After returning to Alaska's Fort Wainwright before an upcoming Afghanistan deployment, Doug joined the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, where he served
"He could have done anything screwed around, hung out in bars," his mom said. "[His charity work] just amazed me, it really did."