While the U.S. is drawing down forces in Iraq and building up, by some 30,000, our troops in Afghanistan, thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard are returning to the homeland. Thanks to Operation Welcome Home Maryland, those who come into Baltimore-Washington International airport will not come home alone.

Theyll be greeted by dozens of people from the local community, many of them former service members themselves. Some of these older veterans can tell sad stories of returning from Vietnam to a cold and sullen airport arrival. No more. Operation Welcome Home is determined to give our all-volunteer servicemen and women the homecoming they deserve.

Incoming flights are posted on the organizations website---www.operationwelcomehomemd.org. Greeters are invited to bring goodie bags of food, water, and other favors from home. When the uniformed service members come through those arrival gates, many are stunned to see the reception committee yelling, cheering, applauding, and playing Im proud to be an American on iPods. To be hugged by total strangers is an unusual experience, to say the least.

But they are not total strangers. They cannot be total strangers. For those who have worn the uniform, no one in the military will ever again be a total stranger. Perhaps watching the made-for-TV series, Band of Brothers, can explain that all-too-bloodless term unit cohesion. It might better be called the Bond of Brothers.

The most shocking thing about Fort Hood is that an obvious traitor in our midst was allowed--for reasons of political correctness--to move freely among our troops. Someone at the highest levels should pay with his stars for allowing such a hostile environment to exist.

Our best young soldiers and sailors today say without hesitation Id take a bullet for my brother. Many of them, sadly, have done just that. No one should ever take a bullet from a traitor in the ranks.

This week, thankfully, hundreds of veterans from Iraq have passed through BWI. Theyre given special Christmas cheer as they come home in time for the holidays. They are all volunteers. And the ones who welcome them home are all volunteers, too. Its another reminder that Liberty is the most precious gift under our tree and that we are the land of the free because of the brave.