- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Why war, people around the globe are asking. The answer, in a word: freedom.
No matter the battle or skirmish, freedom. Regardless of time and geography, freedom. In the air, on land as on the seas, and with sacrifice, moral clarity and unmeasurable conviction, American men and women do battle against all manner of freedom-ripping agents.
This latest war began during the Clinton administration, when men in foreign lands targeted civilians in U.S. embassies and elsewhere. America's nonchalance, then, encouraged the horrific events of September 11, when men from foreign lands used airliners as bombs in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Again, the targets were civilians. While anti-war protesters continue to cower, tyrants and terrorists continue to recruit followers who don't distinguish men from women, adults and children, when they set their eyes upon targets. Young people and breadwinners alike strap themselves with explosives, believing they will be exalted into martyrdom.
It's incomprehensible for most Americans, who, reared in a true democracy, live under a Constitution that draws distinct governmental lines of authority. There are no oxymoronic showcases, such as the one we witnessed earlier this week with Saddam Hussein and his band of merry warmongers standing, in military wear, and cheering to the tune of Saddam's we-will-not-be-moved rhetoric. Strict covenants prohibit women from joining Saddam's military circle, but he doesn't mind murdering women.
Saddam's boys, as a matter of fact, are responsible for two albeit tragic firsts: the death of the first black U.S. servicewoman in combat; and the deadliest attack on U.S. forces during Operation Desert Storm. It happened on Feb. 25, 1991, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The 14th Quartermaster Detachment was there, with other allied forces, because it is a water purification unit. Sure, the soldiers of the 14th were armed and trained for combat, but they were deployed as a reserve support unit. But terrorists, as we saw September 11, and in bloody days before and since then, are vicious. An Iraqi SCUD destroyed the barracks that housed the 14th, killing 28 soldiers including Spec. Adrienne Mitchell of Moreno Valley Calif. The wounded totaled 99.
Now, here we they are again, precisely 12 years later. Women going off to battle, as then-President George H.W. Bush said to the grieving families of 14th, "brutal aggression" and to lead the world to "a new path of peace and freedom."
Then as now, mothers, daughters and wives are heeding the call to duty, determined to help Bush II finish what his father did not. Spec. Mitchell was only 20 years old, and two other Saddam victims were young women as well Spec. Christine Mayes was 22, and Spec. Beverly Clark was 23 both from Pennsylvania. It's difficult for any family when a loved one dies, but especially hard on parents.
Is sending a female loved one off for military training or war more difficult than sending a man? Heather Wilson, the only woman veteran in Congress, says the only time she had seen her Scottish grandfather cry was the day she left home for the Air Force Academy. Like sending children off to college, where it is hoped they learn to fend for themselves, families' hearts fill with pride and eyes well with tears.
But there is nothing like war the expectations, the anticipation, the anxiety, incredible crossroads of winning or losing. In war, there is no gray area.
Ask the Bugay family of Pittsburgh. For months, they have been in preparation for months. The decision struck raw maternal nerve, John Bugay said in his column, "A wife, a mother and a soldier," which appeared yesterday in this newspaper. "They've invaded our country. We've got to stop them, for the sake of our children," Mr. Bugay quoted his wife as saying. So, 17 years after her discharge from the Army, Mrs. Bugay re-enlisted, and Mr. Bugay wrote about the commitment of beloved hero, and their "bitter, tearful goodbye."
During these trying times and the heady days ahead, it is important that we visualize what happened to Spec. Mitchell and the many "tearful" goodbyes of these extraordinary American women. How other Americans can mock and belittle their sacrifices with street protests I do not understand. (Cowards, perhaps, at the crossroads of freedom and tyranny?)
Join me, please, as I salute these and other honorable women of America's armed forces.


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