Paul Greenberg

Call it a military family.

A third brother, Matthew, called Beau, is 28 and in the Marines. He returned last November from his second deployment in Afghanistan.

Benjamin Wise's sister recalled that while Jeremy would just "explode into a room," Ben was "the kind of guy who was in the periphery. He'd throw in his two cents in a more quiet way, and people would just be in stitches." Just like a younger brother.

A staff sergeant who served with him in Afghanistan says Ben Wise appointed himself sergeant in charge of "morale." Which meant he cheered everybody up. "If he saw someone who was having a bad day," the staff sergeant recalled, "he would offer them a hug. He was always there to lift someone's spirits...."

Every outfit has one, or ought to.

Benjamin Wise was where he wanted to be. He'd been assigned to a desk job for a while, but wasn't happy about it, according to his sister. "He wanted to be back in combat."

The Wise family, like the country, is in it for the duration. Just as what's now called the Greatest Generation was. The idea of Fortress America, an America safe in its isolation, shielded by its distance from a turbulent world wracked by fanatical creeds, died December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Or should have.

Back then the threat was fascism and we were engaged in a world war. Then came the long twilight struggle that was the hot and cold war with communism.

Now it's a different kind of war and a different kind of enemy, but, as we were told from Day One, which was September 11, 2001, this struggle is going to be as long. We can't wish it away, or just withdraw and wait to be struck at home still again. Once more, Americans are fighting in places we hardly know, but know are dangerous.

Whenever I read about men like these two brothers, and their deeds and dedication, I wonder:

Where does America keep getting such men? Generation after generation.

The answer should be clear by now. They come from places like El Dorado, Ark., and families like the Wises.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.