April 3, 2008
In the Company of HeroesBy Kyle-Anne Shiver
Last weekend, I was profoundly privileged to be in the VFW Post in Nashville, Tennessee with a roomful of the some of the most intelligent, reasonable and sane human beings I have ever encountered. These men seemed to shun the term "hero."
Yet, what other word could possibly suffice?
From Hollywood's anti-war movies to the New York Times' pitiful anti-vet screeds, to the major networks' portrayals of whacked-out homeless vets to the Winter Soldiers , the American public is bombarded on a daily basis with the notion that suffering for a just cause is not only a needless expenditure of treasure, but a disgraceful evil that should never be borne by good people.
But anyone with a decent upbringing and a grain of common sense, who listens to representatives from Vets for Freedom and Vets for Victory, as I did last weekend, clearly knows that Carl Jung had it right. These hero vets of VFF and V4V know intimately and soundly, the difference between legitimate and illegitimate suffering.
These men, these genuine heroes, are the personification of sanity walking tall.
And having listened to these heroes explain with poise, eloquence and clarity the cause of our war against the forces of terror, I have never been more proud to call myself an American.
Nor have I ever felt such shame for the mainstream media's insane and childish portrayal of America to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has the big megaphone and theirs is the voice the world hears.
Using the Smaller Megaphone, One Town at a Time
Making appearances in 19 American cities in less than a month, the National Heroes Tour, sponsored by the Vets for Freedom and the Vets for Victory, some of our bravest and finest men and women, all veterans of the Iraq and/or the Afghanistan Wars are using their smaller megaphone to reach the hearts and minds of our citizenry.
Their message is simple:
We are fighting for a noble cause and our suffering is both legitimate and worthy.
These men and women have completed their military missions abroad in the war on terror, but they well understand that no democracy can ever hope to win a war in the just cause of freedom and human rights, without gaining the will of her people in support of the mission.
Now these honorable vets sacrifice, once again, the comforts of hearth and home to traverse America, and educate us, the public, about the vital necessity of victory, not only for those of us alive now, but for our progeny.
They call us simply to do our duty for God and Country, and to not sacrifice the precious liberties we have inherited on the altars of our own sloth and pleasure.
Captain Pete Hegseth makes the choice as easy as pie.
Captain Pete Hegseth, the Executive Director of Vets for Freedom, is no John Wayne or George Patton. I never thought I'd live to see a man I thought was better than John and George, but I believe I have.
Pete Hegseth is not the older generation's type of female-worship hero. He's smooth, not rough. He's softer spoken and more calmly reasoned, rather than brash or erratic. But, wow -- does he ever walk boldly, and carry well the big stick of reason.
Hegseth, a graduate of Princeton, seems to be living proof of the fact that education is what one makes of it. As a Sophomore, Hegseth joined the ROTC, which upon his graduation, resulted in a contract for a tour of active duty. He served that first tour at Guantanamo.
When I asked him whether he thought we ought to close that detention center, he left no wiggle room in his forthright answer.
"We've got enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay now, that if released, want nothing more than to go kill Americans and to continue to fight for Jihad," he told me with nary a hint of equivocation. "There's no doubt that we need a facility to hold enemy combatants, and it should not be in the United States of America...so why not Guantanamo Bay?"
Captain Hegseth then added that making the decision about the exact location for holding detainees "is a bit above my pay-grade," but his answer, firmly grounded in the common sense of a man who has seen the cost of Jihad on civilian innocents, certainly seemed more than reasonable to me. And I can only hope that our politicians can be persuaded to see the issue as clearly.
When I asked Captain Hegseth about the mid-March Winter Soldier gathering in D.C., he used that prized Princeton degree to exhibit a bit of extraordinary critical thinking. Immediately, he pointed out the two most salient facts regarding malcontented vets using the big megaphone of the media:
One, those vets represent only a tiny, tiny minority of the more than 1.5 million U.S. veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.
Two, the major coverage of the Winter Soldier event was by international media outlets.
"Now what that does," Captain Hegseth says, "is give the entire world the impression that members of the United States military are going around committing atrocities against innocent civilians."
"So, you've got a kid in the Middle East," the Captain reasons, "trying to decide if he wants to join the terror Jihad...he sees this portrayal, is ignorant of the real facts, and decides to join the terrorists and go kill Americans."
Doesn't sound like rocket science to me.
Logically, the Captain continues to the just admonition to all of us:
"When making public statements about the war and our military, you've got to consider the unintended consequences of those statements."
And what would those "unintended consequences" naturally be?
"This material (defamatory statements) is used against us by our enemies. It's played on Al Jazeera. So, now these folks in Iran and Iraq and Libya and Syria, they're watching it (Winter Soldiers) on TV, and they're hearing talk of American soldiers killing innocent women and children, and they're saying, ‘let's go kill American soldiers.'"
Summing up, then, this may not be the conscious intention of the Winter Soldiers speaking out for the world, but it happens nevertheless.
And those Americans who end up dead as a result, are just as dead as if their deaths were absolutely intentional.
Steve Russell, the man who founded and heads up the organization, Veterans for Victory (V4V), would have my vote in a minute. Like General Petraeus, he exudes a calm and reasoned intelligence and the kind of firmly formed moral character that leaves no room for doubters or naysayers.
Lieutenant Colonel (RET), Steve Russell, speaks; everyone within earshot listens and learns.
This man gives no quarter to verbal mincing, nor any room for equivocation.
When he speaks of our war against the forces of terror, he makes no bones about what is truly at stake. In the mold of President Ronald Reagan, he declares evenly and without emotion, "The battleground over what is good and what is evil has not changed since the beginning of time, and a people ought never be ashamed to stand up and fight for good against evil."
Left unsaid, but clearly felt by listeners, was the flip side. Those who refuse to "bear legitimate suffering" (Jung) in the cause of fighting evil, ought to be the ones who are ashamed.
As the commander of the brigade that was responsible for formulating and carrying out the plan that led to the capture of Iraq's dictator of death, LtC Russell tells it like it is:
"The day we captured Saddam Hussein was the proudest day of my life."
Read more about LtC Russell and his unit's capture of Saddam here, in an earlier AT article.
And from the mouth of this extraordinarily strong, yet humble man, husband and father of five children, one knows without doubt that this means something very substantial. Not just to the men and women who engineered the capture, and not only to the liberated peoples of Iraq, but to every American man, woman and child, who can know, that because of Steve Russell and his men, we each had a part in this historically significant step in the cause of liberty and human rights.
When I heard LtC Russell make this statement last weekend to a roomful of other veterans, my own heart swelled noticeably, and I was forced to ponder the sanity of those who, even in public, could question the ultimate rightness of this action by the American people.
LtC Russell has garnered the Bronze Star with Valor, and was nominated to receive this auspicious honor by his own men. After returning from Iraq, he turned down a promotion and war college appointment to found Veterans for Victory. He settled his family in Oklahoma and now takes to the road and the podium, still fighting the good fight for America, so that "the public opinion front won't be our exposed flank in the war on terror."
In the same vein as America's finest patriots, from our own revolutionary days to this day and hour, these veterans proudly proclaim that liberty, our own and others', is worth the fight.
Worth the cost.
Worth their own lives.
Then surely, it's worth our own simple votes and voices from the safety of home.
My special thanks to Bill Dockery, USAF (Ret), Tenn. State Captain of Veterans for Freedom, who graciously invited me to Nashville and facilitated my interviews with our hero vets.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She welcomes you to visit her website commonsenseregained.com