The Right Opinion

More Than a Game

By Oliver North · Dec. 7, 2012

Philadelphia, PA – For most football fanatics, this is the time of year for watching the big conference championship games and wondering whether their favorite college team is going play in a major postseason bowl. Many of the players in these contests will be hoping to shine for the NFL scouts looking to recruit new talent. That's not the case this weekend.

Few of the players I'll be watching on Saturday are likely to get a call from Jerry Maguire. They won't be hearing an agent shouting, “Show me the money!” In fact, all the players on the gridiron here in Philadelphia have already been “recruited.” And the outcome of the game on Saturday isn't going to alter their paychecks next year by a single cent. They will be playing in one of our greatest sports rivalries – the 122 year-old contest between the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy – known more widely as The Army-Navy Game.

As the two teams take to the field, millions here in the United States will be watching on CBS. And around the world, tens of thousands more will be watching on the Armed Forces Network. Though officially frowned upon, wagers will be made aboard ships at sea, at lonely outposts in the shadows of the Hindu Kush and on U.S. military bases from Japan and the Korean peninsula to Europe and all the way to Mesopotamia. The seniors playing here won't be going to the NFL. Instead, many of them will go to war.

Within months of graduating, the cadets and midshipmen at these schools, and at the Air Force Academy and in ROTC and NROTC units across the country, will set aside their cleats and pads – and don flak jackets, combat boots and flight suits. Unlike many of their civilian peers, these young Americans won't be looking for work. Instead, they will prepare to go into harm's way to defend our nation.

Since 2001, graduates of our military academies could be almost certain that they would see combat in their near future. While the commitment in Iraq is over and the number of troops in Afghanistan will be significantly diminished by 2014, the world is still not a safe place. The North Koreans are about to conduct another intercontinental ballistic missile test. The so-called “Arab Spring” has created a host of new dangers. Syria is in flames. Though Osama bin Laden is dead, radical Islamists are ascendant in Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Mali, Gaza, Yemen and Bahrain. And worst of all, the hagiocracy ruling in Tehran is racing to acquire nuclear weapons.

That's not much different than it was when my classmates and I graduated from Annapolis, West Point and Colorado Springs in 1968. As we tossed our hats in the air, there were two things we knew for certain: the war in Vietnam awaited, and it had bitterly divided our nation.

By the time we reported to our first duty stations, the anti-war movement had become an anti-military movement. Returning heroes – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines – weren't being welcomed home to the cheers of our countrymen. Our wives and families didn't dare put bumper stickers on their cars proclaiming pride that they had a loved one serving in uniform. The treatment the veterans of Vietnam received was simply despicable.

That's why, when Operation Desert Shield – “Gulf War I” – began 22 years ago, Lieutenant General Ed Bronars, USMC (Ret.) and I founded Freedom Alliance – an organization dedicated to fostering, honoring and supporting the men and women of our armed forces. We were adamant that what happened to those who served in Vietnam should never happen again. That commitment remains inviolate.

Freedom Alliance programs support those who serve with financial grants, gifts from home, hospital visits, hero holidays and hero hunts for those recovering from the wounds of war. Whenever possible, family members are included in these events. Thanks to my Fox News colleague Sean Hannity - and thousands of generous Americans – more than 230 children of service members killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty are receiving college scholarships this year.

The Army-Navy game provides an opportunity for us to thank our supporters, invite hurt heroes to an iconic event and remind our scholarship recipients that their fallen parent will never be forgotten. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Freedom Alliance pays tribute to veterans of that conflict with a special guest – Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis.

This gridiron contest in Philadelphia is more than a sporting event. It's a celebration of selfless service for those who place themselves at risk – not on a football field but on the battlefield. For three hours or so, the teams and their fans will treat the opposition as it greatest foe. But when the game is over, they're all back on the same team – the brightest and best-educated, trained and equipped military force the world has ever known.



shoot in Michigan City In. said:

How well I remember traveling in the years of 1968-1972 in uniform your Kakis or dress green uniform was nothing more than a big target for peace movement.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 8:16 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

I am proud to say my deceased Father, buried at West Point, was a true patriot of immigrant parents. I followed his impecable life with 26 years of service in the Air Force. While my branch is not represented, I will watch this game, as I have every year I was able, with intrest and pride that the Academies do produce fine officers, for the most part. Any individual, who would disparage anyone of our troops of any branch of the service is beyond contempt, and that includes our current Commander in Chief.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 10:11 AM

JLS06 in Houston, TX said:

Far too few of today's youth will ever know the pride of service to their country.Our priorities got messed up long ago and will probably never be turned around. Yet, the youth that serve, still defend the right to stay messed up. Thought it was odd that, the one main line newspaper (Houston Chronicle) in the nation's fourth largest city devoted a 1"X1" box, in the Entertainment section, to remembering Pearl Harbor - 7 Dec. 41. So sad.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

I remember coming home from Vietnam in Dec of 1971 and being fitted with a new Class A uniform at Fort Lewis. I was told to be careful on my way home because of the anti-war sentiment. It was very apparent that soldiers were not being welcomed home by the public. The looks and the turning away spoke volumes. It was a real shock to realize that our fellow Americans were treating us as if we were guility for being in uniform. I still get mad when some idiot liberal of my age brags about protesting the war. If i had my way they would all be declared traitors and shipped out of the country.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 11:06 AM


Thank you Old Sarge for your commitment to our protection and safety - I for one appreciate what that truly meant for you and your fellow soldiers. It will be interesting to see how quickly these same people scream for our armed forces when we are attacked after our so called President sells us out. Very sad times!

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio replied:

Sarge: Here it is, short and sweet, from my heart: THANKS.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:06 PM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri replied:

Old Sarge, Col. North states that the treatment our servicemen received upon returning from Vietnam was despicable. It was worse than despicable, but I don`t know of a more descriptive way to put it. My brother, three years my junior was a career Army man who served two tours in Nam. I too still get mad when anyone bad mouths our veterans of that time, or any other time. Thanks for your service to our country. People such as yourself and my brother are my heroes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Richard, Than you for the kind words and tell your brother hello and tell him "Welcome Home" from me. He'll know what I mean.

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri replied:

Sarge, I`m sorry that I didn`t mention the fact that I lost my brother a year ago. He came down with bad diabetes as a result of being soaked down with agent orange several times while in Vietnam. Thanks for the thought anyway. He was a great guy, and by the way, everyone here knew him as Sarge. You and he would have gotten along famously. He was 75 when he passed. Had a lot of problems associated with diabetes, among them was blindness. I drove him a lot and we were very close. I never heard him complain at any time. He was popular and knew that the people who mattered were extremely proud of him and his fellow veterans. Again people like him and you are my heroes. I was not able to serve because of CP.

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 7:09 PM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio said:

Thanks, Col. North. You were a hero in Nam, a hero in your service to our nation after that terrible conflict, and continue yet today in all that you do. God bless you.

I wept daily as I witnessed the losses caused by political micro-management of the war. I wept as good men returned home and were spat on in return for their sacrifice.

I was turned down for enlistment because I had asthma, although I had nearly stopped having symptoms by age 18. It was heart breaking to sit on the sidelines and not be able to do anything.

Again, bless you, Col. North, for honoring those who served then, and now.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Eb from Brick in Brick, NJ said:

First I would like to say "Welcome Home" to all of you who served in Vietnam. I did not have to go, as the war was winding down in my final year of high school (72), and my draft lottery number was high both times. I've read quite a few books since, to try and get an understanding of what you faced over there. I figured back then that one day I would meet some of you and maybe even have friends who served. Turns out I was right.
I had the opportunity this last Veterans Day at a local Applebee's to say those two hearetfelt words. My friend who served, myself, and our wives went to celebrate his service and the fact that he was one of the ones who did come back, albeit as a DV (busted up ankle). Being seated next to a gentleman and a few generations of his family, I had the chance to shake his hand. I told him that I did not have to serve, and said "Welcome Home." I thought he was going to break down right there at his table. I imagined he had not heard that at all, and I desperately hoped I had not stirred up bad memories. Thank You and Welcome Home to all the WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and other vets. And Thank You to all the men and women who currently serve.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

George and Ready, Thank you for the kind words. It worries me to think that we have people in this country who wouldn't lift a finger it we were attacked. George, My mother suffered with asthma so I know something of how devastating that can be. You tried to serve which is more than a lot of people did.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:28 PM

MarkS in IL said:

Ollie, I like you. But dude, must you always refer to the "shadows of the Hindu Kush"? It's so Koontzian, with his ubiquitous "lambent light."

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Tanker John in Martinsburg, WV said:

When I came home from Desert Storm, the first person to greet coming off that plane at Hunter AAF was a Vietnam Veteran in a wheelchair. "Welcome home and thank you for your service." It choked me up and still does to this day. Thank you Sir (and all of you on this site who served), for your service.

And no offense to the good Colonel, but Go Army, Beat Navy!!! I'm hoping that this year my brother-in-law (Annapolis '89) will be buying the bottle of bourbon instead of me.

Plt. Ldr, 2/B/4-64 AR, 24ID(M) 1990-1992
XO, 226th S&S Co., 87th Maint. Bn 1992-1993 (JTF Andrew, Operation Restore Hope)

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 2:45 PM

billy396 in ohio said:

Your column reminds me how amazed I am that the traitor to his comrades in arms John Kerry could even be considered for the position of Secretary of State. Have these idiots forgotten how this "man" came home from Vietnam with his fake Purple Heart and then turned on his men and accused them of killing babies, etc? He was a POS coward then, and he's even worse now. As one of the "One Percent", he's even evading his taxes on his NEW $7 million dollar yacht. I guess when we have a card carrying Commie in the White House, that's what one should expect.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 8:29 PM