- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009


America is at war. According to the latest opinion polls, that is not what many Americans want to hear this weekend after Thanksgiving, as the Christmas holiday approaches.

Our political “leaders” don’t want to acknowledge this war. Our media does its best to ignore it. Most of our businesses, society and industry are removed from it. What little manufacturing remains in this country turns out products other than those used by our soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines. Our allies long ago largely abandoned this fight, and our entertainment industry openly mocks and condemns it.

The fact remains, however, that America is at war. Even those who turn a blind eye to reality cannot ignore the fact that radical Islamists want to be at war with us. Thus, it is so.

On Oct. 3, 1863, in the midst of the bloodiest war America ever fought, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” After visiting several wounded Marines in the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda this week, it struck me that too few of our countrymen would offer thanks for the remarkable young Americans in harm’s way on Thanksgiving.

Here are some others for whom we should always be grateful - and who serve with little or no credit:

• Doctors and nurses, corpsmen and medics: Thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines are alive today because of the courage, skill and advanced medical treatment employed by these specialists. From the battlefield to stateside hospitals, there have never been lifesavers better than these.

• Chaplains: While the medical professionals heal the body, they minister to the soul. War is hell on Earth - and it can lead someone to the Lord as easily as it can test the strength of his or her faith. In covering our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve seen countless times when chaplains helped battle-weary young Americans make sense of that which doesn’t.

• Military recruiters: Most would rather be with a unit in combat - and nearly all assigned to this often thankless duty have already served in this war. But for the recruiters in our communities, most young Americans would never have the opportunity to make a decision to become part of a cause bigger than themselves. Despite all the negative spin from our press and politicians, they have filled the ranks of our armed forces with the bravest and brightest of this generation.

• Drill instructors and drill sergeants: America’s all-volunteer military is the best-educated, -trained, -led and -equipped armed force in history - thanks to the qualities of these proven leaders. They hone individuals into a team and model the kind of skills necessary for a unit in combat to perform honorably - even heroically - in the chaos of the modern battlefield.

• Officers, specialists, analysts, interrogators and special agents of our intelligence services and federal law enforcement agencies: They have the most thankless task of all - spending countless hours poring over millions of images, transcribed conversations and e-mails from, and to, those who are dying to kill the rest of us. They go undercover for clandestine, high-risk “meets” with informants who may provide a clue to prevent a disaster. The only official recognition most will ever receive won’t be declassified until they are long since retired or dead.

• Volunteers: They take a day off work to meet our troops to welcome them home. They staff the airport USOs and attend the funerals of our fallen - though they never knew them - just because it is the right thing to do. These are the Americans who organize “care package” drives and knit quilts for burn victims, who make flights available to bring family members to the bedside of a loved one. These are the people who quietly, without fanfare, pick up the restaurant tab for a service member sitting at a nearby table. These also are the Americans who dare to approach a uniformed man or woman in an airport, extend a hand and say, “Thank you for your service.”

• Military families: These are the most special people of all. They gave their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, to the service of our nation. Only those who have experienced an airport or pier-side goodbye hug for a loved one leaving in uniform truly know what they endure. They have made that lonely, tearful walk back to the car after waving what they hope and pray is not a last “good-bye” for a service member leaving on deployment. They have persevered through missed anniversaries, birthdays and holidays - always anxious about the knock on the door or a telephone call that will bring terrible news. Alone on the holiday, they bravely shouldered their family’s burdens because words like duty and service mean something - especially when America is at war.

Thank you. God bless all of you during this holiday season.

Oliver North is the host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel, the author of “American Heroes” (B&H Publishing Group, 2008) and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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