TQ AIRBASE, Iraq -- Our FOX News Team is aboard a U.S. Marine C-130 aircraft, departing Iraq, headed for Kuwait -- the eighth time we have left war-torn Mesopotamia this way. It's exactly 45 months since I first entered Iraq on the night that Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Then, I was aboard a Marine CH-46, and the bird to our left, transporting a squad of Royal Marine Commandos, went down, killing all aboard.
Today's flight, call sign "Midas 10," is designated as an "Angel Flight." It carries the flag-draped metal coffin containing the body of a young Marine captain killed yesterday by enemy fire. Usually aircraft headed out of country are crammed with dirty, tired, armor-clad warriors celebrating their departure. Today, it's just the flight crew and us, and all aboard are somber. Everyone is painfully aware that back home, an American family is going to grieve for Christmas.
Outpost Horea: This is, by anyone's definition, prime real estate in downtown Ramadi, Iraq. The building, a solidly constructed, three-story concrete structure surrounded by a high wall, once served as the city morgue. The heavily sandbagged, camouflage-netted rooftop, one of the tallest in this part of this badly battered city, offers a commanding view and good fields of fire over the entire neighborhood.
The one-time mortuary is now a police station on one of the meanest streets on the planet -- manned by Iraqi soldiers, police and U.S. Marines. Mal James, my combat cameraman, and I spent several days here last year covering the Iraqi elections. It wasn't a peaceful place then, and it isn't today.
On Friday, shortly after we heard the muezzins calling the faithful to midday prayers, a young Islamic radical, brainwashed by some charismatic leader, drove a dump truck at high speed down the street and tried to smash his way into the courtyard of the police post. When he failed to break through the barricade, the terrorist -- or perhaps a "controller" holding a cell-phone -- detonated the load of explosives in the back of the truck. Though the explosion created a spectacular fireball, it failed to kill or injure any of the Marines or their Iraqi counterparts. There was nothing left of the perpetrator. We could never determine what family mourned the loss of their son.
Government Center, Ramadi, Iraq: Escorted by a dozen heavily armed Marines and Iraqi policemen, we accompanied local Iraqi contractors to where they were removing rubble from the streets around the government center. When we arrived at the worksite and dismounted from armored Humvees, James immediately set up his camera to document this moment in Ramadi urban renewal. At that point a terrorist sniper decided this was just too tempting a target and "cranked off a round."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.