A few weeks ago I had the honor of speaking to a group of World War II veterans at a luncheon in their honor. As I looked at each of these heroes, I could not help but to think of all the sacrifices made by this "Greatest Generation."
Between 1941 and 1945, 16 million Americans served in uniform. Of those, 418,000 gave the ultimate sacrifice. The country rallied, and everyone sacrificed in some way. Politicians, Republican and Democrat, stood together in support of victory.
I also reminded the crowd about the similarities between World War II and the global war on terrorism. Like Pearl Harbor, we were attacked on 9-11 by a foreign enemy determined to destroy our way of life. Is there truly a difference between a Japanese kamikaze and the Arab terrorists who hijacked those planes on 9-11? Is there a difference between a Japanese soldier beheading an American POW during the Bataan death march, and an Arab extremist beheading an American contractor? Is there any difference in the fascist leaders such as Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, and Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban? The answer to these questions is no.
Yet today a majority of Americans do not have to sacrifice anything for the freedom they cherish. There is no draft, no rationing; we have one political party that claims the economy is this nation's No. 1 priority, not the global war on terrorism. The media report the negative aspects of the war; they fail to mention all the great things we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Politicians have taken sides on the issue instead of uniting. We no longer seem willing to fight for the very freedoms we so cherish. The feeling among the troops is a sense of abandonment outside our immediate families.
I served my country for 23 years as a Marine, and I am deeply troubled over the direction most Americans have taken in these critical times. We are on the verge of yet another horrific attack, but we focus our attention on other things. For those of you with children ages 13 and older, failure to win this war now only means a larger, bloodier war for your children to fight.
We must all as Americans rally to the cause. Not just those serving in uniform, but all Americans, young and old, must make sacrifices. Freedom is not free, but earned by the sacrifices of a determined people.
David H. Foster of Colerain Township retired from the Marines in November after serving 23 years, including combat tours in the first Persian Gulf War and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is safety supervisor for Fairfield City Schools.
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