by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
September 12, 2003
'WORLD WAR III IS HERE,' SAYS FORMER POW
COVINGTON, Ky., Sept. 11, 2003 -- Retired U.S. Navt Capt. Jerry Coffee, who spent more than seven years in a North Vietnamese POW prison cell, told a group of investment executives today that "World War III has already begun, and we have to have faith in ourselves to get through it."
Speaking on the second anniversary of terror massacres of Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the former pilot held 200 insurance executives of Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati spellbound for an hour, with a tale of survival, sacrifice, and renewal.
"Stop and think about it. In this war the 'victories' or what passes as 'victories' will be the time elapsed between major terror attacks on our own soil, meaning that the past two years in a way have been a victory in a long process," Coffee said.
Much of what the highly decorated flyer had to say was in the realm of "motivational" speeches which have been a mainstay of corporate conferences and sales meetings for many years.
But the combination of today's headlines from Iraq, alleged threats from Osama bin Laden, and the 9/11 anniversary date, all added extra poignancy to the day.
I'm not the pundit I sometimes imagine myself to be, but for a moment I asked myself, "What if Captain Coffee is right?"
What if the guy - who tapped out in crude code "GB" for "G-d Bless" or GBA for "G-d Bless America" to prison mates for more than seven years - has a view of sustained suffering and national sacrifice which most of us can't grasp?
What if each day hugging our kids, and not experiencing a car bomb, is really a blessing?
What if the dead and injured soldiers in Iraq are the price we pay for freedom at home?
What if Saddam Hussein--perhaps not responsible for 9-11, but still vowing to crush American infidels--makes us safer in his absence from power?
It's just a thought. But perhaps small victories are all we can hope for right now.
Mark Scheinbaum, former UPI newsman is our regular columnist and investment executive at Kaplan and Company Securities.