GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- He was standing at the counter when I entered the store. As he paid the clerk, he turned, and I noticed, in this order, his beard, his T-shirt, which had "Marines" emblazoned on the front, and his cane. His prosthetic foot still was masked by the counter when I said, "Semper fi, leatherneck."
He smiled and replied: "Semper fi to you, too, Colonel. You were embedded with my unit in Afghanistan last year."
We spoke for a few minutes. He had been wounded by the favorite weapon of radical Islamic terror, an IED. He's minus some of his body, a little less mobile, preparing to re-enter civilian life and permanently proud of having served his country. As he moved to leave, he said: "We did our part. Sure hope the crowd in Washington doesn't screw it up."
His concern is particularly relevant at a time when the American welfare state is the only growth industry in our country. At its core is socialized health care. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are pushing legislation to make health insurance mandatory for every American and to allow government to dictate what services will be provided to us. It is an expansive, expensive proposal, requiring the most productive among us to carry the cost of medical care for all others.
That's relevant to the young wounded Marine because the O-Team's compassion czars first suggested that some of the cost of health care for illegal immigrants and "disadvantaged" citizens be borne by America's combat-wounded service members. The administration's bean counters and medical magistrates discerned that charging veterans' private insurance companies for treatment of service-connected injuries, wounds or sickness could save $540 million. The O-Team's message to our military: If you gun-toting, knife-wielding, overage adolescents and right-wing extremists want to go off and play soldier, don't expect us to pick up the tab if you get hurt.
After veterans organizations and pro-military citizens groups conducted a shock-and-awe campaign in the blogosphere, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the O-Team had "made the decision that the combat-wounded veterans should not be billed through their insurance policies for combat-related injuries." Let's hope someone on Capitol Hill actually reads the most recent draft of the "health care reform" legislation to ensure that the fine print of this medical monstrosity doesn't include other innovative ways to stick it to our wounded warriors.
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.