- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jaime L. Benavides will be among the former Marines seeking to protect the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from the anti-war nut jobs this Saturday.

Mr. Benavides, who served in the Marine Corps for nearly 18 years, understands there is a disconnect between those who espouse peace but sometimes employ destruction and mayhem to amplify their message.

“We will have 16 Marines doing shifts all through the night Friday and into Saturday so nobody tries to deface the memorial,” Mr. Benavides said.

A group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism is among the organizers behind the march on the Pentagon. The organizers plan to assemble at Constitution Gardens hard by the Mall in the morning hours before starting their march about noon.

The threat of disturbances between those on opposite sides of the political aisle is genuine.

“I’m too old to be putting up my fists,” said Mr. Benavides, 42. “I am concerned about [violence]. You just never know.” Mr. Benavides, a first-generation American of Mexican descent, has a deep love of his country and the brotherhood of the Marines. He dismisses the “we-support-the-troops-but-not-the-war” mantra of the loony left.

“I’m really glad we live in a country where you can gather to express dissent,” Mr. Benavides said. “But I don’t think this [march] helps at all. Our enemy sees it as a victory for them. Our job is to change the hearts and minds of the Middle East. But instead, our enemy is changing our hearts and minds, at least the hearts and minds of some of our citizens, which only makes the job that much more difficult for our troops.” That elementary proposition eludes the intellectual capacity of the blame-America-first crowd.

“I just think there is an element of complacency in America today,” Mr. Benavides said. “The demonstrators’ idea of sacrifice is to check in at Marriott, march for eight hours and then stop at Starbucks to call it a day. They don’t seem to grasp that liberty is not free. They are able to march on the Pentagon only because of the blood of previous generations.” Mr. Benavides’ grandfather served in the Army, which is how he gained his American citizenship. Mr. Benavides grew up in the hardscrabble area of South Texas before enlisting in the Marines and securing his piece of the American dream.

The Silver Spring resident, husband of Amy and father of 7-year-old Nicolas knows there is no greater gift than being born in America. As an immigration officer with the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Benavides hears the heart-wrenching tales of those desperate to live in this country, legally or otherwise.

Mr. Benavides tells of the groundswell of support he has found on the Together We Served Web site of former Marines planning to take off from work and travel to the District from places all across America.

If it is important for Cindy Sheehan and the rest of the “Night of the Living Dead” crowd to be heard yet again, it is equally important that voices such as Mr. Benavides’ be heard as well.

He does not treat the freedoms and opportunities of America lightly. He knows he is where he is not just because of his persistence and initiative but because of the sacrifices of his grandfather and the advantages of being in this country.

And he does support the troops, as only a former Marine could.

No insulting qualifier is necessary.

Mr. Benavides plans to pick up his son tomorrow evening and head to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to personally thank the troops. This is in contrast to the Code Pink ninnies who “support” our troops each Friday evening by imploring that they be brought home now. They don’t seem to understand how this declaration might offend an injured soldier.

Mr. Benavides has no agenda other than to truly thank those who are merely following the orders of their higher-ups.

His is a noble sentiment grounded in the military experience the pillow-soft demonstrators cannot possibly grasp.

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