Ten months ago, Navy vet Ron White began a monumental task: Memorizing the names and ranks of over 2,200 American service members, CIA agents, and civilian contractors who have been killed since the start of the War in Afghanistan.
"I just wanted to acknowledge that each person who died was an individual person," said White, who served a tour in Afghanistan in 2007. "You know, Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin Adam and LCPL. Leopold Damas, they were all moms and dads, brothers and sisters and they were each individual people."
In honor of their memory, White launched the America's Memory project. Over the next year, White will travel to various cities, where he will erect a 50-foot-wide by 7-feet-tall dry-erase board and proceed to spell out the names of the fallen.
His first attempt took place last week in his hometown of Fort Worth, where he spent the day writing out over 7,000 words in the presence of several onlookers who had lost their family members in Afghanistan.
"It made me real happy to make think that someone is still thinking about our boys that gave their lives," said Maryanne Buckner, whose grandson, PFC. Austin Staggs, was killed in Afghanistan over two years ago. "I don't want him to be forgotten, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that he's not forgotten. That's why I'm here today."
White, who has a world-record-setting memory, said his tribute goes beyond a mere list of dead Americans.
During the 10 months he spent memorizing the names, White also spent many hours meeting with the relatives of those who were killed.
"They tell me who they were, about their character, about their bravery and their courage, and I'm a better person for hearing those stories," he said. "People are always thanking me for doing this, but I've become a better person by doing it."
Money raised through White's memorial will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization whose motto states, "the greatest casualty is being forgotten."
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