On July 2, when asked to comment on the killing of a Marine in Iraq, President Bush replied, "there are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there ... Bring 'em on! ... Our forces are ready." This prompted New Jersey Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg to jump for the nearest microphone and proclaim that he was shaking his head "in disbelief." He then sputtered that when he was in World War II he had "never heard any military commander -- let alone the commander in chief -- invite enemies to attack U.S. troops." Mr. Lautenberg must think that at Bastogne, General Anthony McAuliffe was asking the Germans for hors d'oeuvres when he replied to their surrender demand with, "Nuts."
After hearing Senator Lautenberg and the explanations of the pollsters, I decided to conduct my own informal, admittedly unscientific sampling of American public opinion to see how deeply this sense of national dyspepsia was being felt. I called a military recruiter.
"The polls say Americans are growing disheartened," I told him. "Are you seeing any drop off in volunteers?" "Not here. We have all the high-school graduates we need for the next two months," he replied, knowing that he is one of those responsible for enlisting 185,000 new recruits this year.
The conversation reminded me of one I had on-air with a young lance corporal just east of Baghdad in early April. The New York Times had reported that morning that the Marines had outrun their supply lines and were out of food, water, fuel and ammo. I stood next to the youthful Leatherneck, told him about the story, stuck the microphone in his face and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Are you short on ammo?"
"Well, what do you need?" I pressed.
"Just send more enemy, sir."
Bravado? Sure. But it's real -- right from the lips of one of those who stand in harm's way defending us -- and offering the hope of freedom to others.
It was that same kind of audacity that inspired 56 patriots to gather in a hot hall in Philadelphia that July of 1776 and stick it in King George's eye. They knew it was going to be a rough go -- but they didn't shirk and whine. They signed on to the notion that we are endowed by our Creator "with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." As we celebrate that event this year we might do well to remember that enjoying "the blessings of Liberty" sometimes requires us to cinch up our belts, suck it up and get on with the business of protecting ourselves.
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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