See website.: http://www.mcall.com/news/opinion/anotherview/all-muse7-4jul04,0,2003241.story Delta Force rescuers embodied selfless valor If every American could know what I know, then everyone would understand the weight of the phrase, ''the blessings of liberty,'' and they would show greater pride and admiration for the men and women who protect those blessings on our behalf. I'm one of the lucky ones. My wife has a husband, my kids a dad and my grandchildren a ''Pops,'' because dozens of warriors, whose names and missions are among the nation's most closely kept secrets, risked everything to rescue me from the inner-most circle of hell. My rescuers were with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force â the world's most elite, valiant and secretive soldiers. Today, these dedicated patriots risk their lives silently in the shadows of war worldwide, but most recently in our nation's war on terrorism. Thanks in large part to their efforts, Iraq's terrorist leader al-Zarqawi is dead, and as a result, countless other fathers and grandfathers will return home safely to their families. At the time of my rescue, I'd been living in solitary confinement for nine months in a Panamanian prison that was known for the terror it inflicted on its inmates. During that time, I'd witnessed countless acts of brutality and murder, even as I'd been allowed to see the sun only four times. I'd been arrested for speaking out against Gen. Manuel Noriega's brutal regime, hoping to inspire the Panamanian citizenry to throw him out of office in the next election. I learned that whether the name is Noriega, Stalin, Hitler or Hussein, despots despise the truth, and they quickly and brutally punish anyone who speaks it. The night of my rescue started like any other, as I lay on my cot in my tiny cell. A prison guard sat on the other side of the steel bars that served as the only way in or out of my stifling reinforced-concrete room, a locked-and-loaded M-16 pointed in my direction. He was there to fulfill a standing order to kill me if there were any signs that Americans â my countrymen â might try to remove Noriega from power. The Americans did liberate Panama that night in December 1989, and the very first shots of that invasion were fired in support of my rescue. Snipers secured the area as helicopters landed on the prison roof. From there, the Delta Force operators fought their way down two floors to my cell. As war raged around us, they blew the lock off my door and whisked me back to the waiting choppers. The total time from touchdown to dust-off was six minutes. As we lifted off into the night, however, the prison defenders found their aim, and my helicopter was shot down not once, but twice. Almost all of my rescuers were seriously wounded. To this day, I remain the only civilian ever to be snatched by Delta Force from the jaws of death. But they didn't work alone. Backing up that team of 23 rescuers were dozens of planners and logisticians who devised the rescue mission after compiling thousands of bits of information gathered by dozens more intelligence operatives whose daily activities make history happen, even if historians never record their names. If it had been up to my rescuers, in fact, I never would have known their names, either. These men are humble fighters; they never look for glory or praise. By pulling a few strings, I found a way to contact them anyway, and on every anniversary of my rescue, I give them a call to once again say thanks. Last month, I had occasion to reunite with many of my rescuers at a party to celebrate the launch of a new book that chronicles our exploits together, and when the time came for me to make a little speech, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Standing there in the presence of my daughter, who was only a girl herself when I was facing execution, and my son and his new fiancÃ©e, and my beloved wife and so many of my dearest friends, I realized that there are no words to adequately express the thrill, the wonder and the sheer relief of hearing a voice say in your native language, ''We're here to take you home.'' And there were the Delta operators, some retired and some still on active duty, smiling back at me, grateful for the moment, but willing to lay down their lives tomorrow for the principles of liberty. Among the true blessings of liberty, then, are the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who strive every day to keep us all free. I thank God for them every day. Kurt Muse is the co-author of ''Six Minutes to Freedom,'' which tells the entire story of his arrest, imprisonment and rescue. He lives with his wife in Northern Virginia. ''These men are humble fighters; they never look for glory or praise.''