This year, as I always do, I asked, "What was the last unit with which you served; where; when; and what did you do when you left the service?" In no case did I ask about politics, nor did I solicit their opinions about the current White House.
Herewith, excerpts from responses elicited from nearly 10 hours of meetings during the course of two days with these great Americans:
"I served in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1942 to 1945. ... When I came back to the states, we got married, and I went to work for a car dealer. ... We eventually bought the dealership. Two of our sons served in Vietnam. ... What happened at Fort Hood isn't a 'tragedy'; it's a travesty. ... It should never have happened. ... The people who knew about this guy Hasan and did nothing to stop him ought to be fired. All of 'em."
"In 1950, I was six weeks out of boot camp when I landed with the 1st Marine Division at Inchon. ... We fought our way through Seoul all the way to the 'Frozen Chosin.' ... I retired in 1970 as a master gunnery sergeant after two tours in Vietnam. ... Both our sons served as officers in the Corps. ... Our daughter was a Navy nurse in Desert Storm. ... This crowd in Washington scares us. A few months ago, they were telling us that our biggest threat was disgruntled veterans and right-wing extremists. ... That's not who's killing Americans."
"I was drafted in 1969, served in Vietnam with the 1st Cav, was medically discharged from the Army in 1973 ... came home and married my high-school sweetheart. I used the GI Bill to get my degree, taught English for 20 years, and retired as the principal of our high school. ... We're Democrats. ... We're sick and tired of being told by this White House not to 'jump to conclusions or rush to judgment' about what happened at Fort Hood. ... How can the president tell us what this guy Hasan did is 'incomprehensible'? What don't they comprehend about militant Islamists?"
And from a young staff sergeant wearing a Purple Heart medal on his uniform and standing beside his pregnant wife: "I came in because of the attack on 9/11. I've done three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. We agreed I was going to stay in. But if we're not in to win, I'm getting out."
Though the sentiments of these veterans may hearten opponents of the Obama administration, it is notable that the overwhelming complaint was leveled not only at the White House but also at Washington. Incumbents: Sound reveille.
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.