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In life and death, putting the other fellow first page 2
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: The Other Fellow First

Date published: 1/31/2013


Before deploying, Doug went back to his hometown of Sterling, where he reconnected with Alicia Swanstrom, whom he originally met in school. The pair became inseparable, with Doug resolving to ask for her hand in marriage once he returned from Afghanistan.

"I knew he was serious about her," Suni said.

Doug deployed to a remote southern Afghanistan outpost and spent most of 2011 on daring night patrols, which often resulted in tense firefights with Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents.

"They let him [come home] for a two-week leave," his mother said. "You could see in his eyes that he'd seen a lot of bloodshed."

With just weeks remaining in his deployment, Doug, who was Jewish, asked his mom to send a Star of David that he could wear around his neck.

"He thought that was going to protect him," Suni said.

The crushing loss of a fellow soldier, Spc. Brandon Mullins, 21, reinforced Doug's belief that his own death could soon be at hand. While Suni said her son would have been allowed to stay behind from his final combat patrols, Doug went anyway.

On Aug. 28, 2011, Spc. Green, 23, was killed when terrorists attacked his unit with small-arms fire and roadside bombs, according to the Pentagon.

"He would always assure his other soldiers that everybody would be OK," the fallen soldier's mother said. "He just didn't care about himself."

Two weeks before his death, Doug mailed a heartfelt letter to his loved ones.

"If I could leave you with any words of wisdom, it would be two things that I have always tried to live my life by," he wrote. "Make sure you always put yourself in the position of anyone you ever have contact with. You will never truly know a man or woman until you try to see things from their perspective.

"Secondly, never pass judgment or put anger on someone too quickly or harshly," Doug continued. "Because I guarantee you that person is fighting a battle that you know nothing about."

Doug is buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where a toy Army figure and other mementos left by his girlfriend, Alicia, decorated his white headstone during my Dec. 25 visit.

"I will always love and cherish all of the time I was given on this earth and am thankful for this life and everyone in it," Doug wrote in his final letter.

Indeed, Spc. Douglas Green always put the other fellow first.

Tom Sileo is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.

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