- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

The morning after Sen. John Kerry slurred America’s fighting men and women and all who serve, my wife and I attended a ceremony in Northern Virginia. Juxtaposed to Mr. Kerry explaining lamely that he was only attacking the commander in chief in wartime (apparently Mr. Kerry thinks it funny to make fun of the president’s intelligence), we witnessed this: A U.S. Army colonel seated and waiting for the event. A second U.S. Army colonel came upon the scene and the two shook hands and then gleefully embraced.

This image of teamwork, camaraderie and loyalty so moved me that at the end of the ceremony we stopped to talk. Col. Ronald E. Smith, M.D., told me the other colonel was his son’s godfather. These two have traveled some miles together in peace and war. And each has dedicated his life to the service of others. Twice. Both are medical doctors and also career U.S. Army officers.

These must be the people that Mr. Kerry thinks are stupid.

I stopped another young officer, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. I noticed he wore the ribbons of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart on his chest. The first is for valor. The second means he was wounded.

I asked him what happened.

“Some terrorist got lucky, sir,” he explained. “Hit close to me with an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). I’ll set off airport metal detectors the rest of my life.”

Indeed, the captain had many scars on one side of his face. “Oh, this whole side of my body looks like I got penetrated by a thousand pieces of metal,” he said. “But I’ll go back to Iraq. As soon as they’ll let me.”

He didn’t seem stupid to me. He seemed honorable, dedicated, professional and proud. And eager to do more for his country.

I asked about his family.

“They understand my commitment. It is difficult. But it is what we were called to do,” the Marine captain said to us.

He didn’t want his name in the newspaper. He said, “There are plenty of people that are doing more than me. Why should I deserve special mention?”

I stopped a Navy captain who had with him his two small sons and his wife. His wife is obviously Chinese, and I noticed because I spent a few years living among the Chinese. And my bride is Vietnamese. I have a developed eye for Asian faces.

They thought Mr. Kerry’s remarks didn’t matter much. “Nobody should listen to politicians when they lose their cool in the heat of a political squabble. They stop thinking, generally,” said the captain.

A one-star U.S. Army general passed us wearing the wings of a helicopter pilot. “We have a tremendous number of young uniformed men and women fighting, dying and otherwise making sacrifices or giving their all. I have the utmost respect for them. In fact, I love them all and their families, too.”

His remarks did not sound practiced. These words were heartfelt.

There is a special breed of men and women in our country who dedicate their lives, their careers and their families to duty, honor and country. You can see their sterling character in the gleam in their eye when you ask them about their service.

On the way home from the ceremony my wife and I stopped at America’s newest monument: the U.S. Air Force Memorial. Four Air Force Blackhawk helicopters passed over head, reminding us of the airmen all over the world who protect us and keep the peace.

A lieutenant colonel wearing the wings of a command pilot stopped us.

“I’d rather be in Iraq than here flying a desk at the Pentagon. But we all have our jobs to do. We all have our duty. I don’t complain. But I do sneak up here from time to time to reflect upon all the airmen lost in our nation’s wars,” he said.

To reflect upon and thank them for their service and for giving the ultimate sacrifice, I thought.

Nothing stupid about this man. He seemed to have his life and his commitments in perfect order.

And I wish I could say the same about many of our politicians.

John E. Carey is a retired U.S. military officer and former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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