That's not much different than it was when my classmates and I graduated from Annapolis, West Point and Colorado Springs in 1968. As we tossed our hats in the air, there were two things we knew for certain: the war in Vietnam awaited, and it had bitterly divided our nation.
By the time we reported to our first duty stations, the anti-war movement had become an anti-military movement. Returning heroes -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines -- weren't being welcomed home to the cheers of our countrymen. Our wives and families didn't dare put bumper stickers on their cars proclaiming pride that they had a loved one serving in uniform. The treatment the veterans of Vietnam received was simply despicable.
That's why, when Operation Desert Shield -- "Gulf War I" -- began 22 years ago, Lieutenant General Ed Bronars, USMC (Ret.) and I founded Freedom Alliance -- an organization dedicated to fostering, honoring and supporting the men and women of our armed forces. We were adamant that what happened to those who served in Vietnam should never happen again. That commitment remains inviolate.
Freedom Alliance programs support those who serve with financial grants, gifts from home, hospital visits, hero holidays and hero hunts for those recovering from the wounds of war. Whenever possible, family members are included in these events. Thanks to my Fox News colleague Sean Hannity - and thousands of generous Americans -- more than 230 children of service members killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty are receiving college scholarships this year.
The Army-Navy game provides an opportunity for us to thank our supporters, invite hurt heroes to an iconic event and remind our scholarship recipients that their fallen parent will never be forgotten. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Freedom Alliance pays tribute to veterans of that conflict with a special guest -- Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis.
This gridiron contest in Philadelphia is more than a sporting event. It's a celebration of selfless service for those who place themselves at risk -- not on a football field but on the battlefield. For three hours or so, the teams and their fans will treat the opposition as it greatest foe. But when the game is over, they're all back on the same team -- the brightest and best-educated, trained and equipped military force the world has ever known.
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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