How bad is it?

 If you’re wondering what Prince George has wrought in the hinterland, far from his royal throne, read the following guest editorial that appeared in our local paper last Saturday.  It was written by a federal government employee, the current superintendent of Hot Springs National Park (http://www.nps.gov/hosp/).

I’m still mulling over a response, but I already know I’m going to ask her when the “Field Guide for Spotting Terrorists in Hot Springs” will be available.  Will it include a “swarthiness” color chart?  A chapter on how to spot Albanian idiots shooting guns and yelling “Jihad!?”  Clever sports trivia questions (that only lily-white Christian Americans would know) to expose terrorists masquerading as tourists?  Maybe next she’ll endorse an effort to start training local schoolchildren to inform on their parents’ seditious behaviors…

This foolishness appeared in the May 12 edition of the Sentinel Record, in “The view from here” guest editorial section (page 6), titled “Terror plot hits home.”  I’m about three days behind in my reading, so perhaps someone else has already swatted this one down.  Perhaps…

I’ve been watching with great interest the news reports about an alleged terrorist plot against U.S. soldiers in Fort. Dix, N.J. and planned in nearby Cherry Hill, a bedroom community outside Philadelphia.

The plan, the location, and the subsequent e-mail I received from a friend telling me that five of the six alleged terrorists lived near her daughter, brought the entire situation sharper into focus: The drama was unfolding barely four miles from the very quaint middle class neighborhood where I used to live and used to feel safe with my husband and our young children from 1993-1998.

My husband, now retired from the U.S. Air Force, was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, located next to Fort Dix. I also served in that military complex as an Air Force reservist. We routinely put on our uniforms and drove in and out of the base and the fort while on military duty.

Even more shocking, one of the alleged plotters lived up the street from my friend’s daughter, a young mother of four whose house is festooned with yellow ribbons because her husband left two months ago on a one-year tour of duty in Baghdad.

How ironic that the soldier-husband went overseas to fight for his country and that the battlefront moved so very close to his family. That his home, the one with the big sign on the front lawn wishing for his safe return, might have become a potential decorated target!

To those who still wonder about what the U.S. military is doing strung out far and wide across the globe, let this be a warning: We are fighting over there to prevent bloodshed from happening over here.

That, of course, is only part of the larger conflict. Those who want to kill Americans because of what America represents don’t see a distinction between the person in uniform who has sworn to defend the nation and the noncombatants, the innocent civilian or child who is nevertheless a target in this new kind of war.

The terrorists who want to harm us will continue to plan their evil plots and occasionally will be awfully successful.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will continue to deal with the enemy in faraway foreign lands, whose names are hard to pronounce, but where American sacrifice and courage is on display on a daily basis.

The first line of defense within our borders will continue to be the federal, state and local law enforcement officers and they will do their best to infiltrate the terrorists’ circles and stop them before their villainous plans are implemented.

But in this fight, it also will take average, ordinary people – such as the clerk from the video store who first noticed that something evil was afoot in Cherry Hill – to become engaged in America’s greatest struggle, our struggle for national survival.

No neighborhood, be it in Cherry Hill or in our also quaint Hot Springs, stands safe from terrorism anymore. No neighborhood is insulated from possible attack, especially if in that neighborhood resides an American who wishes to live in liberty and in pursuit of happiness. Those unalienable rights espoused in our Declaration of Independence put every one of us in jeopardy.

As the initial news reports of the alleged plot started spreading across our nation, an FBI agent was quoted as saying that given the types of weapons the group was seeking to acquire, “today … we may have dodged a lot of bullets.”

Indeed, it only takes one lucky break for our enemies to accomplish their goals “to kill as many” as possible. It will take a united and vigilant citizenry to snuff that glimmer of hope from their grasp.

God bless the United States of America!

Josie Fernandez is superintendent of Hot Springs National Park and colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, assigned to the Pentagon. She was called up to active duty after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and served at the Pentagon for one year.

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