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boots -- they pulled it off. All but forgotten in this week’s homecoming celebrations are the more than 300,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, guards- men and Marines who will observe Christmas far from home and those who love them. These are the U.S. troops stationed overseas

THE WEIRS TIMES & THE COCHECO TIMES, Thursday, December 29, 2011

-- from the Balkans to the Korean peninsula -- many of them in the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. Despite hardship and risk, their steadfast commitment ought to be an inspira- tion for all of us in this holiday season. Nearly 90,000 Ameri-

cans wi l l spend this holiday in Afghanistan.

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Those deployed on lone- ly outposts high in the shadows of the Hindu Kush will have a white Christmas - - but no chance of hearing “sleigh bells ringing.” One young Marine in Helmand prov- ince told me this week, “All I want for Christmas is no friendly killed; no friendly wounded.” U.S. Army Private First

Class Brian Dilberian of the 10th Mountain Divi- sion lost both legs and his left hand to a Taliban emplaced improvised ex- plosive device in July 2011. He’s now a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Last week, at Sean Hannity’s “Salute to the Troops Concert” in Washing- ton, D.C., he told me his Christmas present this year would be growing “two inches taller on my new legs.” Thus far, the war in

Afghanistan has claimed the lives of nearly 1,900 Americans. More than 15,000 have been wound- ed there since we were attacked on 9/11. These numbers alone ought to make us all wonder what Vice President Joe Biden was thinking this week when he told a reporter, “Look, the Taliban per se

is not our enemy.” Know- ing who our enemies re- ally are would be a great Christmas gift for the Obama administration. Unfortunately, we do

have enemies. That’s why 28,500 Americans in the Republic of Korea, another 48,000 in Ja- pan and thousands more aboard U.S. Navy vessels deployed in the Pacific are paying very close at- tention to what’s hap- pening in North Korea while we’re opening pres- ents beneath our Christ- mas trees. In Pyongyang, where Christmas is not a holiday, 20-something- year-old Kim Jong-un appears to have inher- ited his father’s nuclear- armed dynasty. The trou- ble is that we don’t really know much about what’s happening in the Hermit Kingdom. An American intelligence service wor- thy of the name would make a wonderful pres- ent.

Such a gift could also

help us to know how close the apocalyptic aya- tollahs in Tehran are to acquiring nuclear weap- ons. This week, when a CBS reporter asked if Iran could have a nu- clear weapon in 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta replied, “It would

probably be about a year before they can do it.” If that’s true, it means that nothing the O-team has done to deter such a dismal prospect has worked. A healthy dose of “reality” ought to have been on the White House gift list. Thankful ly, none of

these weighty matters are likely to intrude on the Christmas celebra- tions of most Americans. That’s because our lives and well-being are pro- tected by 1.5 million of our countrymen wearing our nation’s military uni- forms. They are all volun- teers -- the brightest and bravest of their genera- tion. They have absent- ed themselves from the affection of their loved ones, given up the com- forts of home and placed themselves in harm’s way so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings of liberty. On Christmas, say a prayer of thanks for their sacrifice.

Oliver North is the host

of “War Stories” on Fox News Channel, the found- er and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of “American Heroes in Special Opera- tions.”


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