Those critics who systematically caricature the Democratic Party as "soft on defense" should’ve headed down to the National Mall in Washington on this brisk Wednesday morning. Against the backdrop of the US Capitol, 40 of the 55 veterans running as Democrats for Congress in 2006 assembled "to take the flag out of the hands of Karl Rove and his political assasins," said Eric Massa, a 24-year Navy Officer vying for a seat in upstate New York.

These "Band of Brothers," including nine Iraq veterans, saluted their country but implored the need for a "change of course" on the war, Congressional corruption, VA health care and basic bread-and-butter issues.

The Fighting Dems include:

** Bill Winter, a 10-year Marine Corps and Navy vet who’s running against the vile immigrant-basher Rep. Tom Tancredo in suburban Denver, Colorado.

** Jim Nelson, a self-described "military veteran, Methodist minister and moderate Democrat" who’s seeking the Georgia seat of Rep. Jack Kingston, one of Tom DeLay’s closest allies in the House.

** Joe Sulzer, a Vietnam vet and mayor of Chillicothe, Ohio, who wants to oust the soon-to-be-indicted Rep. Bob Ney.

** Mishonda Baldwin, a Desert Storm vet who’s trying to become the first African-American woman elected to the House from Maryland.

GOP attack dogs may have been able to swift boat the hapless John Kerry. Let them try and do it to over fifty vets. As Tim Dunn, an Iraq war vet from Fayetteville, North Carolina, put it: "It’s time to take the Hill."