WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans observed Independence Day earlier this week, but tyranny wasn't put on hold just because the world's foremost guarantor of liberty celebrated 230 years of sovereign self-rule. In a unique fireworks show, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il ordered the "test" launch of seven ballistic missiles, breaching Pyongyang's 1999 pledge to abstain from such activities. And while we celebrated here at home, more U.S. military personnel were killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The primary reason why we enjoy unequalled opportunity and security is because Americans have always stepped up to challenges confronting us. As President Bush noted, since our Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, some 43 million of our countrymen have defended the United States in wartime. Those who have gone in harm's way did so not for gold, oil or colonial conquest -- but to offer others the hope of freedom.
This Tuesday's 77th All-Star game is a reminder that a good number of those brave Americans came from the ranks of Major League Baseball. In this era of blame-Americans-first reporting, the mainstream media -- infatuated with negative stories about soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen, Marines and baseball players -- is unlikely to note that during World War II, more than 500 major leaguers and 4,000 minor league players served in our armed forces. Many of professional baseball's most exciting and talented players risked their careers -- and their lives -- to defend our country.
Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to spend time with many of these legendary practitioners of the American Pastime for a special edition of "War Stories" on FOX News Channel. Monte Irvin, Johnny Pesky, Yogi Berra and Bob Feller were at the top of their game -- yet all traded one uniform for another -- and were willing to talk about other baseball greats -- like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Warren Spahn with whom they served -- and played.
Boston Red Sox ace hurler Curt Schilling gave me the idea for this show when he told me, "I'm playing baseball. I'm very proud of what I do. But those who serve in the Armed Forces put their lives on the line for this country and the freedom of people that don't even live in this country."
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.