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Today we mourn Lance Cpl. Sutton

Today, we mourn the loss of a life -- a husband, a father, a son, a sibling, a grandson, a friend, a native son, a Marine.

Not everyone who mourns the loss of Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton knew him, but they know of him and they respect him. They know this 24-year-old Marine, serving in Afghanistan, placed his life on the line and died for his country.

The Marine Corps and the Department of Defense said that Sutton, who joined the Corps in 2009, was a mortarman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division. On May 26, he was killed during combat operations in the Helmand Province -- Afghanistan's largest province and a Taliban stronghold.

There is great pain for those who survive him -- his wife, Toni Senn Sutton; daughter, Aubrey Smith; parents, Gene and Bonnie Sutton and Sue Etheridge; siblings, Jack Sutton, Ches Balentine and Nicki Tyer; grandparents, Bobbi Ford and Nell Rugg; parents-in-law, Donny and Celia Green, and brother-in-law Wadon Senn.

Those of us who have never gotten the call cannot know the anguish that this family is enduring, and words of comfort and appreciation are far from adequate. There is no way to regain what is lost when a loved one dies, especially when that death comes in this manner and claims one so young. His wife and family will keep him alive in their memories and in their hearts.

One of the most revealing aspects of the influence Lance Cpl. Sutton had on those around him came Tuesday from one of his long-time friends, Thomas Nichols, who had known him since the third grade. Nichols played on a summer traveling baseball team and he noted that once the team's coach pulled a rope out of his pocket and held it out for the players to see. He asked them: "If you were hanging off the edge of a cliff and had the end of this rope in your hand, who would you want at the top holding the other end?"

"I immediately thought of Steve," Nichols said, "and he wasn't even there."

That thought was a tribute to the man. There will be others today for the Marine known as the "gentle giant," a telling nickname that not only describes his tall stature but also his strength of character. We've no doubt that the roadway from his funeral service in Leesburg to his final resting place in Albany will be lined by people -- Americans all -- who have been touched by his valor, his kindness and his sacrifice; people who will take time today to stand in honor and tribute, many holding the flag that symbolizes our nation that Sutton defended.

Lance Cpl. Sutton gave all he had -- his life -- in a violent country a half a world away to protect his wife and daughter, his family, his friends, his acquaintances, and millions of people he had never met back here in America. His sacrifice embodies a familiar quote by Jesus in the New Testament: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton died a true hero. His name is one that we should always remember.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board

Those desiring to make donations to the Steven Sutton Memorial Account can do so in care of Heritage Bank of the South, P.O. Box 50728, Albany, Ga. 31703.