This past week, Congress approved a $162 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also provides veterans (who have served actively for at least three years) free college educations. That is the least we can do to help these patriots who serve this country so valiantly. We must continue to fight to care for those who have fought for us, particularly those who now are disabled for doing so.
As we approach another Independence Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the great service members who have served, past and present, to provide and maintain the freedom we experience today. While we complain and murmur about gas prices at home, I call all Americans this week to reconsider the costs our service members continue to pay to fuel freedom — especially those wounded in heart, mind and body. And I encourage you to pause from your Independence Day festivities to send a free postcard (made by American children) to our troops overseas through Xerox. Go to www.LetsSayThanks.com.
Without diminishing the respect we owe to America’s hundreds of thousands of service members here and overseas, this week I want to salute in particular two superb examples of patriots — valiant men who have served this country faithfully in times of peace and war and with whom I traveled during my tours of Iraq in 2006 and 2007 to greet roughly 40,000 troops at 30 bases.
In Iraq, Navy Capt. Mike Langston was the force chaplain for the Multi National Force-West in Anbar province. In Kabul, Afghanistan, Capt. Langston also served as the theater chaplain for Combined Forces Command. He just left Iraq as division chaplain for the 2nd Marine Division to assume the position of commanding officer for the Naval Chaplains School in Newport, R.I., where he will be responsible for all the Navy Chaplain Corps training for our chaplain officers and all the religious program specialists training in our Chaplain Corps.
I extend my sincere congratulations and thanks to Capt. Langston, who now serves in a critical and often overlooked area of service: military chaplaincy. He is a gentle and giant warrior who is always ready in season and out of season to serve both God and country. I must admit I’m a little biased here with Mike, as he also leads a multiple-black-belt martial arts family! My wife, Gena, and I wish him, his wife, Kathy, and their family the best in this promoted and patriotic service to our nation.
My second commendation goes to my friend and four-star Marine Gen. Robert Magnus, at whose invitation I twice visited our troops in Iraq. Gen. Magnus is retiring this month as the 18th assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. He has had nothing short of a stellar military career, from Vietnam to Iraq. His personal decorations include: Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Navy Achievement Medal, and National Defense Service Medal with a Bronze Star.
I have known hundreds of officers in every branch of the military through the decades, and Gen. Magnus certainly stands among the most outstanding of even the notables. His amazing leadership gifts and down-to-earth demeanor give him a universal good-will rapport as a man of valor and an exceptional military servant and patriot. My wife, Gena, and I wish him, his wife, Rose, and their family the best as he transitions into retirement, where we know he will continue to serve his country in a host of humanitarian ways.
Often overlooked in our debates about war are the real men and women who serve this country, such as Gen. Magnus and Capt. Langston. These men are examples of the hundreds of thousands of military souls who leave all and put all on the line for our country and freedom. These are the people about whom my friend and fellow actor (who also accompanied me to Iraq in 2006) Marshall Teague is producing the military movie "Last Ounce of Courage." (You can see the trailer at www.LastOunceOfCourage.com.)
On this Independence Day, it is high time every last American drop his partisan politics, post his flag, and commend these patriots for securing and passing the baton of independence and freedom to yet one more generation. They live out the calling and creed once so eloquently stated by President Ronald Reagan: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
It is to Gen. Magnus, Capt. Langston and freedom fighters like them around the globe that I, as an Air Force veteran and honorary Marine, commendably shout on this Independence Day that Marine exclamation, "Oorah!" We are grateful for your service and humbled by your ability to remain semper fi.