Last week my travels took me through the central Oregon town of Madras. Located in a high desert region, irrigation makes agriculture the primary business of this town of 5,500. Next to U.S. 97, a block-long stretch of chainlink fence was draped with flowers, yellow ribbons, banners and flags, and the sidewalk was lined with candles from a prayer vigil. The community was mourning the loss of Pfc. Thomas Tucker, who the previous week had been captured and murdered by Al Qaeda.
I stopped to leave flowers brought from home and to show my respect for a man who died preserving freedom for me and my family.
As I traveled on, I thought of the threats our country has faced during my lifetime. I was born at the close of the second world war, but I grew up watching the B-47s and B-52s of McConnell Air Force Base fly over our home. Soviet leaders had promised to bury us. Our town, with its airbase and Boeing plant, was clearly a prime target for their nuclear-armed bombers and in case of attack, we were to get into our cars and follow the evacuation signs out of town. Where we were to go was a little less specific, but even us kids understood the need to flee an H-bomb attack. Escape was feasible because the DEW radar line would warn us before the offensive bombers could reach our shores.
Sputnik changed all that, for now a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile could reach us only 20 minutes after launching. Evacuation was impossible. What civilians needed now were fallout shelters. We countered this threat by developing a vast fleet of ICBMs (Intercontinental ballistic missiles) buried in hardened underground silos. Our missiles could survive the initial attack and inflict a mortal retaliatory strike on our enemy. The strategy was “mutually assured destruction.” We knew who our enemy was and the targets to destroy him.
Today our enemy is more insidious, but I think he is much more threatening. He does not want our territory or our wealth. He wants to destroy our freedom, our equality, our way of life. His radical, distorted view of one of the world’s great religions cannot tolerate our free and independent life style. He has struck in Madrid, in London, in Bali, twice in Africa and, on the second attempt, destroyed the World Trade Center. He will not tolerate a dualistic society. It is his way or death.
The lesson of history is clear. The appeasement or isolationism of the Chamberlains or Lindbergs of this world do not work. Our enemy has attacked and we must either oppose him or surrender our way of life. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a saprophyte living with the freedom bought by the sacrifices of others.
Today, I salute Thomas Tucker and all the men and women who have ever put on a uniform and risked everything to defend our freedom. God give us the wisdom to defend our freedom and use to it wisely. Be grateful to our veterans.