WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Here in "Cheesehead" country, where Green Bay Packers fans go to Lambeau Field with snow shovels, military recruiting never has been much of a problem -- until now.
"These are outdoors, patriotic people," a military recruiter told me as I prepared to speak at a Boy Scouts function here. "Young people up here are tough. They hunt, they ice fish, they go to football games in an open stadium in the middle of a blizzard. This used to be a great place to be a recruiter, but not anymore," he continued.
"What's happened?" I asked this two-tour veteran of the "global war on terror."
His reply was blunt -- and an indictment of the so-called mainstream media: "The press is killing us. We have parents and high school guidance counselors telling our best prospective recruits that they have too much potential to waste it in the military. Last year, we had to debunk myths about how the war in Iraq was being lost. Now when we go to talk to parents, they ask us about stories they have heard about suicides, drugs -- and now murders. There is no 'good news.' It's very discouraging."
Remember those words: "very discouraging."
The "murders" my recruiter referred to are those "documented" by The New York Times in a front-page story entitled "Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles." The "Deadly Echoes" piece appeared concurrently with the hunt for a male Marine suspected of killing a fellow female Marine in North Carolina -- a story that has been repeated almost hourly on the cable news channels.
The authors of the Times piece claim that they found 121 cases where veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing, or were charged with one, after their return from war. What this amounts to, says the Times, is "a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak."
The Times reprints one local newspaper headline reading, "Iraq veteran arrested in killing." The story goes on to fan the flames: "Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: 'Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.' Pierre, S.D.: 'Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.' Colorado Springs: 'Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.'"
This collection of sensational headlines is an effective gimmick, but it ignores reality. The homicide rate for 18- to 34-year-old civilians who have never served in the military is actually five times higher than it is for those who are now, or who recently have been in, the armed forces.
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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