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Love and gratitude

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- -- As the petals of the Valentine's Day flowers start to gently curl and the chocolate-induced sugar coma slowly begins to lift, we must remember to appreciate the support and sacrifices of our loved ones, past and present, not just for one day a year, but every day. Military and civilian members of the Defense Department are truly blessed to have an enormous pool of "loved ones," since we share a special bond with every person who has ever had the privilege of serving in the Armed Forces.

Please allow me to briefly celebrate the life of a young Army private who was the first American combatant to die in World War I. On the seventeenth day of February in 1915, while serving in France with the Foreign Legion, Private Edward Stone demonstrated exceptional bravery and dedication to his fellow legionnaires. During an intense bombardment, he stayed at his post while others ran and was mortally wounded by shrapnel. A surgeon who treated him wrote: "... You can tell his people he always did his duty as a soldier, and died like one; of this I am sure."

Thanks to brave individuals like Private Stone and Corporal Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I who died in 2011, we are the greatest military in the world. Although the only flowers they will receive now are the ones gently placed on their grave sites, they will receive the love and gratitude of their fellow Service members, all day, everyday.

On this seventeenth day of February, please join me in saying, "Thank you Pvt. Stone."