He has a short haircut and tight muscles, wears a 3 pound Kevlar helmet and an 18 pound flak jacket to work, and can march all day in 100-degree heat with a 50 pound pack on his back. He knows how to use every weapon in his unit and can fieldstrip and re-assemble his personal weapon in less than a minute -- in the dark. He's gone weeks without bathing but cleans his weapon before he sleeps.
His company "Gunny" or Sergeant First Class has been in combat before -- but this is the first time he and his lieutenant have been shot at. Under fire, he obeys orders instantly, but if asked will always have an opinion on how to do something better. Often, he'll be right.
He's been taught chemistry, physics and ballistics, and can navigate with a map and compass -- but prefers the GPS he bought at the Base Exchange. He's remarkably self-sufficient. He prepares his own meals, washes and mends his own clothes, digs his own foxhole and latrine, and keeps his feet dry and his canteens full.
The kid who wouldn't share a candy bar with his brother will now offer his last drop of water to a wounded comrade, give his only ration to a hungry child and split his ammo with a mate in a firefight. He's been trained to use his body as a weapon and his weapon like it was part of his body. And he can use either to save a life -- or take one.
He's already had more responsibility and seen more suffering and death than his civilian contemporaries will see in their lifetimes. The fellow who used to stay in the sack 'til noon now exists on three to four hours of sleep a day -- and when he comes home, he'll be on average 12 pounds lighter than when he left.
He's learned a whole new vernacular of military shorthand -- words like "CONUS," "H-hour," "Zulu time," "SNAFU" and "FUBAR." They mean nothing to civilians, and he doesn't care.
He knows grown men don't cry, but he has wept unashamed in public over a fallen friend because he knows heroes aren't defined just by the way they die -- but how they live.
He can now take profanity to the level of a new art form -- but carries a Bible in his rucksack and is unafraid to be seen reading from it. He's proud to be serving his country, reveres his commander in chief -- and knows that he is respected in return. While he is modest about his own courage and military prowess, he's absolutely certain that his is the toughest unit in the U.S. Armed Forces.
When he gets home, he won't talk much about the horror of war, but he will want more fresh milk, salads and homemade cookies than you ever thought possible.
This fall, when he goes to a ballgame, he'll resent those who fail to stand in silence when they play our national anthem. He's enough to drive the liberals nuts. And somewhere this year, we need to find another 180,000 just like him who will volunteer to serve.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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