On Wednesday the Times-Mirror received an unsolicited email from Leesburg resident Anna Steg.
And we're glad we did.
In the message we learned of Staff Sgt. Ben Hines of the United States Marine Corps. Hines was killed in action in Afghanistan some 13 months ago in a roadside explosion. He and Steg were to be married seven months ago. The two planned to wed at Rust Manor House in Leesburg.
“Ben made the ultimate sacrifice, alongside two of his Marine brothers – Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman and Sgt. Robby Hendriks,” Steg wrote. “Ben is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and I am thankful that he is close by and can visit him. He was 31 years old when he was killed and had only a few weeks to go in his deployment before he was set to come home.”
Gives you shivers, doesn't it?
Ben was “always the first person to step up when he knew something was wrong,” and he didn’t need to wear a uniform to be a hero, his sister Meghan Hines recalled.
“After he met Anna, Ben seemed to have a newfound purpose in his life and a happiness and drive to make her proud,” Staff Sgt. Brandyn Colton said in a York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record story. “He found his true life’s calling in love.”
Steg told us the family recently launched The Ben Hines Memorial Foundation to “help carry on his legacy and assist families of our fallen, military and [law enforcement community].” More information can be found on Facebook by searching “Ben Hines Foundation.”
Stories like these are peppered across the nation. They have been for decades now and, unfortunately, they're likely to continue for decades more. They are often sad stories, but they're tales of heroism nonetheless.
Stars and Stripes reports 22 American service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019, the highest number since NATO combat operations in the country ended at the end of 2014. These were men and women – many with the prime of their life in front of them – breathing their last in hopes of securing our nation's freedom. We should recognize this fact not just this Memorial Day weekend, but every week as we go about our lives largely unfearful of terror or vicious crime.
Thank you to Ben Hines and all who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice.