The year had started off so well.

Investors had started putting money back into mutual funds that invested in U.S. stocks, long-term.

In the week ending Feb. 16, $5.2 billion flowed in to such funds. But in the following week, just $1.5 billion. Then, at the start of March, $3.2 billion exited long-term equity funds. And another $2.4 billion in the next two weeks.

So, somehow, it was appropriate that Sunday night U.S. Bancorp held its welcoming dinner to the 2011 Mutual Funds and Investment Management Conference of the Investment Company Institute at an aircraft museum.

Specifically, the Palm Springs Air Museum, which houses one of the nation’s largest collection of World War II aircraft. Because it can.

Unlike many air museums, these aircraft actually fly. Every one is in working condition. And if you take the chance to walk through the insides of the B-17 Flying Fortress known as Miss Angela, you’d realize just what kind of risks so many airmen took on our behalf during that conflict.

If you were a tailgunner, let’s just say you had less protection than the screen that an iPod Touch gets from its nearly shatterproof glass.

You were vulnerable. But you took the chance. You bet your life on the promise of this country. And the bet paid off.

Joe Redwine, the president of U.S. Bancorp, appreciates this. He is a Vietnam War veteran. He fought for the same cause: Protecting our freedom to pursue freedom, our freedom to pursue or fail at business, our freedom to succeed or fail at life as we define it.

You may not feel much connection to the last great war to define how this world conducts itself. But its effects are lasting.

Yes, the credit crisis almost brought this country to its financial knees. Yes, this recovery is likely to be slow. And we may even toy with federal bankruptcy.

But, it’s pretty hard to bet against this country. Even when we’re in quagmires in two Middle Eastern countries, we find it within ourselves to do what we can to protect citizens under fire in a third.

Maybe that’s not grounds enough on which to bet the family savings. But if not this country, which one?

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