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The man we're all counting on

By Lawrence Henry
web posted October 1, 2001

In his book The Victors (Simon & Schuster, 1998), World War II historian Stephen E. Ambrose writes that, on Omaha Beach, "someone had to lead; men took the burden on themselves and did." With senior officers killed, missing, or landed in the wrong place, American soldiers took charge, thought for themselves, and got the job done, regardless of rank, in many cases disregarding original orders for their part in the Normandy Invasion.

"The contrast between" the American soldier and the German soldier, Ambrose wrote, "could not have been greater. The men fighting for democracy were able to make quick, on-site decisions and act on them; the men fighting for the totalitarian regime were not."

Thousands of unmade or inappropriate decisions by stubbornly programmed troops, Ambrose concludes, lost the war for Germany.

For the past two weeks, our over-amped media has echoed with ricocheting charges of "cowardice" or "not cowardice" about the 19 men who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This argument is irrelevant. Those men were programmed, even more so than the Nazis. They were robots, zombies, in the precise sense of that word.

Their fellows are programmed, too, throughout the world. Yes, they have fearsome dedication, and they follow no rules of engagement at all. But they will ultimately confront a trained fighting man with the best equipment in the world, backed by the blessings of a free nation, a man who can think for himself.

This is the American soldier. We owe our freedom to him, in the tens of thousands. And we will owe the victory in this new and almost unrecognizable war to that man in the years to come.

He has a dirty job to do. Other servicemen and women on ships and in the air can fire off bombs and rockets and artillery shells, weapons of incomparable accuracy and power. Those weapons will help.

But at the end, it will be our soldier, on foot, in a fire fight, probably in units no larger than a squad, who will climb mountains, burrow into caves, and fight from building to building and stairwell to stairwell in cities. Some of them will die fighting. Some of their bodies will never be found. Some of them may be tortured on worldwide TV. Some of the greatest victories will never be acknowledged, some never even known.

Given coherent marching orders - a rarity in recent history - by a Commander in Chief they respect, our guys will confidently do what soldiers are supposed to do: Break things and kill bad guys.

They will do it better than the zombies. Because every one of our guys can think for himself.

My friend Bill has been much on my mind lately. Bill lives in the mountains of New Hampshire, where he has lately been out of touch because a moose ate his telephone; Bill has to go a mile down the mountain and wire a handset to a telephone pole to pick up his messages. Now I know where Bill is. He's been activated with his National Guard unit, where he serves as a sergeant.

God bless him and all the soldiers like him.

Today, in our local coffee shop, I heard three young mothers talking about where to buy gas masks over the Internet. I wanted to stop and tell them about Bill. Yes, there's a possibility that some terrorist somewhere in the U.S. will release a chemical or biological agent.

But probably not right now, and within a few weeks, probably not at all, because of men like Bill. To all those worried young mothers, I tell this truth: Within a few weeks, Osama bin Laden and his immediate band will be dead. Men like Bill will isolate them, force them afoot, root them out, and kill them.

There may be, as Attorney General John Ashcroft has said, 200 or more terrorist sleepers in our country. But with their hero and their paymaster dead, they will not know what to do, and they will not have the financial wherewithal to carry out any planned attack. They, too, will be isolated, afoot, zombies without a control.

Osama bin Laden isn't the only zombie controller in the world. There are many, and there are nations who support them.

But, because of the American fighting man, we really don't have to worry.

Our men will kill them, too. We just have to stick it out. And in church, and in our hearts, say a prayer for an American soldier.

Lawrence Henry is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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