This Fourth of July celebration opens with news that more than 4,000 American Marines have poured into Afghanistan's Helmland River Valley in a surprise offensive aimed at securing the turbulent region in advance of national elections. This sudden and massive show of force may be the first of many given the reputation of the new commander on the ground, General Stanley McChrystal, but whether it is a one-time display of firepower or the first of many such deployments, it reminds us in advance of the Independence Day barbeques just exactly who we have to thank for our freedom --and it isn't the elected officials, unless by that we mean the Republicans and Democrats who have served in uniform like Senator James Webb (D-VA) and Congressmen John Kline (R-MN) and Duncan Hunter Jr.(R-CA).
Three recommendations for those of you interested in spending some of this long weekend thinking about why this country is so uniquely free and why it has been that way for so long.
First, consider a contribution to one of the many great organizations serving those who have been wounded in their service to the country. The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is one such organization, as is Fisher House. There are many others. If you are buying beer and burgers this weekend, drop an internet donation equal to that amount in their coffers, and raise a glass to these incredible servants of freedom. And if you are anywhere near Pasadena on the Fourth stop by to run or walk in the J.P. Blecksmith 5K, honoring one of the citizen-warriors who sacrificed his life for the country.
Next, get smart about the war in Afghanistan. One civilian who has put a lot of effort into helping you do that is novelist Steven Pressfield, whose book on Alexander the Great's Afghanistan campaign took him deep into the history of the region, and who has now produced a series of five short videos --"It's The Tribes, Stupid"-- that provide a compelling introduction to the difficulties our troops face in this long and extraordinarily important war.