My dinner with 2 of our finest

Posted: January 2, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

The night after Christmas I sat down for a homemade tamale dinner in Southern California with a newly appointed U.S. naval officer and his best friend, an enlisted Marine. My time with them was as enlightening as it was enjoyable. It was a moment I wish our nation had been able to witness.

Both men were out of uniform, both home for a few days of leave. Best friends since they were kids, the two of course were at ease with each other and the other assembled guests. Though the Marine has been in longer, there was some good-natured ribbing about who would be required to salute whom if they had both been in uniform. Their conversation style was polite, both of them often responding to questions with a slight smile usually followed by a "yes, sir."

Much of the discussion centered around the theaters of service the Marine had just returned from and comparing notes with what officer candidate school had been like for the newly crowned naval aviator. When on occasion I would raise a question that would begin to have political ramifications to it and even though both were off duty and completely free to respond, their restraint always kept them from immediately jumping on even the easiest of targets.

When I asked what they felt about John Kerry's comments regarding the general intelligence level of the men and women who serve today, the Marine just grinned, leaned in a little and nearly whispered, "It's not true, you know?"

In very humble terms, he went on to talk about how nearly intimidating it is. As a newly appointed platoon leader, he overseas a handful of men who all enlisted (as he did), but because most of them went on to college prior to joining the Marines, many of them were older than himself. Because of his record, he has also been promoted faster than many of the class he enlisted with.

He also recounted some of the very technical operations his platoon had been assigned in the last two years – literally spanning the globe – and in some cases serving as instructors to our allies. His experience also disputes John Kerry's "stuck in Iraq" theory because though this Marine was only one year removed from being able step down from service, he had yet to even be in Iraq.

That will change soon, however. Even before the president has decided on whether to up the numbers of our military in Iraq, this Marine's unit was slated to be headed there in early 2007.

That note brought a brief pause to the conversation.

"But we're excited to be headed there. We signed up to serve our country, protect our families and do what we can."

The naval officer spoke of future assignments he may be called upon to carry out for the protection of America.

"The thing about the Super Hornet (F-18, the aircraft he will be flying) is that it is built both to take on air-to-air dog fighting, while the NFO (backseat position) will be able hit targets on the ground – accurate to within three feet." He added, "It's not like anyone wants to go drop bombs on people, but when we have to it sure is nice to know that the surgical accuracy of the strikes can prevent the loss of life among the innocent."

The conversation lasted for about an hour and a half and felt truly uplifting, even inspiring – very different than what we hear from the media.

This conversation followed my recent visit to Pensacola, Fla., where I was able to attend the graduation ceremonies of officer class 04-07. With Marine drill instructors turning young, again, mostly college educated minds into toughened naval officers, I was reminded of the first-class nature of our armed services and the types of people who choose to serve today.

I get so weary of media agencies, Hollywood producers and the political left in America denigrating and degrading those who defend us.

And it strikes me that when I have these encounters, I am left wondering how much time any of them spend with our servicemen and women. I confess that in recent years I have not spent as much time as I would have liked, but that has changed. In 2007, I am already committing to broadcast from any military outpost that invites me, even if in a forward deployed area.

In 2007, I will exhaust myself if necessary to tell the story about our finest. I will encourage the next generation to investigate military service of any sort, as they feel led.

This year may bring many ominous signs about our nation's future, but those signs stem from an ungrateful leftist slant in America. By contrast, the spirit, restraint, intelligence, precision, dedication and commitment of a young Marine, a naval officer and thousands more servicemen and women may just point us to the light we need to survive the toughest days that lie ahead.

I am grateful for their example and convicted by their reminder.