Making a Difference: Acts of Courage and Compassion

"Sometimes, it's as simple as advice or a birthday card," Girganti told ABC News. "They're not always huge, huge wishes. So anyone can be a hero."

Inspiring Stories of 2009

Heroes have sent a World War II veteran back to Pearl Harbor for his 90th birthday, a prom dress and shoes to a girl whose house burned down, and introduced a boy with terminal cancer to his basketball idols.

Nancy Mitchell has granted 21 wishes, kindness that was repaid when someone else granted her wish.

Mitchell's husband has just lost one of his jobs, their dryer stopped working and their car needed thousands of dollars in repairs when their refrigerator died.

After she posted to the site, Ginny Winderman, who volunteers to help run the site, bought a refrigerator for Mitchell.

"It's just not an appliance," Mitchell said. "She gave me my holidays back."

To learn more about the Web site or get involved, click here.

Profiles in Courage

For the tens of thousands of U.S. troops far from home, their commitment to purpose, their focus on the mission, their devotion to each other and their love of country and family, perhaps explains their unwavering dedication in the face of all the personal sacrifice.

"I really feel that I've made an impact or participated in something really critical to our nation," Col. Gary Volesky told ABC News this year. "I truly believe that our families are safer because we are right here."

President Obama recently announced plans to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. They will join the 68,000 already there. Another 114,000 continue to serve in Iraq.

These servicemen and women have left husbands, wives, children and loved ones behind this year, in order to help defend and grow communities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And those abroad are not the only ones showing courage.

"[My son Alex] always makes me smile because he says, 'Ok, dad, you go over there and you help those people and I'll wait for you back here,'" Volesky said.

If you're interested in making donations to troops serving abroad or helping their families at home, click here.

A Sorrowful Ritual

In February 2009, the Pentagon lifted an 18-year ban on media coverage, with the family's permission, of the return of fallen service members to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

More than 5,000 coffins have arrived at Dover since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. All have received a dignified transfer.

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