There was a rush to recruiting stations following the attacks in 1941 and 2001. But unlike WWII, and contrary to the constant barrage of prison abuse photos on television, America's challenge in the current war depends less on the valor and perseverance of our modern day warriors than it does on the rest of us.
Today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are every bit as brave and dedicated as their grandfathers. At a median age of 19.5 years, those who make up our military are, on average, six months older than their World War II counterparts. They are all high school graduates and volunteers. They are bigger, better trained and better equipped and employ more sophisticated equipment than any military force in history. They wear 22-pound flak jackets, 5-pound Kevlar helmets and 50-pound packs, and work all day in 100-degree heat.
"Experts" and "leading indicators" suggest these troopers -- known as "Generation Y," or the "video-game generation," aren't up to the task of fighting a far-away war in Iraq or Afghanistan. But they are. The problem isn't with the troops -- it's on the home front.
The news media see the ratings that so-called sex and sleaze reality shows garner and tries to capture that audience by exploiting and sensationalizing a story like the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. That story is still receiving far more attention than it deserves.
And unlike WWII, a Loyal Opposition no longer exists. It is now just a hateful opposition. John Kerry can't even bring himself to say, "I hope he's not hurt," about his president when learning of a bicycle accident. In a bitter speech this week, Al Gore, who defended illegal fund raising and worked for a president who lied to a grand jury, accused President Bush of showing "utter contempt for the rule of law." After describing Bush as "dishonest," he declared the president's closest advisors "incompetent" and called for their resignations.
Pollsters remind us that "public approval" of the president's handling of the war is less than 50 percent -- an all-time low. If such polls were taken in May of 1944 following the disastrous rehearsal at Slapton Sands in which German gun boats sank three U.S. assault ships, killing 749, it's easy to imagine the headline, "Public opposed to Normandy Invasion."
Can we win a war in such an environment? It's unknown -- for no modern commander in chief has been so disparaged as this one. It didn't happen to Wilson in World War I, Roosevelt or Truman in World War II, Truman or Eisenhower in Korea nor with Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon in Vietnam. Many on the Left say that "we support the troops, but not their leader or ?his' war." That's a false commitment. How can one "support the troops" but not their mission?
Today's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardsmen, like their WWII predecessors, are good, decent and courageous. They place themselves in harm's way, forego the comforts of home and the affections of loved ones to protect us and offer others the hope of freedom. On this weekend of commemorations, we should thank God for all those who have been -- and those who still are -- willing to serve. We should also pray that we are worthy of their sacrifice.
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.