WASHINGTON -- This week, the Pentagon released official figures on how dramatically the security situation has improved in Iraq. Terrorist attacks, secular violence, roadside bombings, Iraqi civilian deaths and U.S. casualties are all down. The announcement received scant notice from the so-called mainstream media. About the only news from the global war on radical Islamic terror to receive less attention this week was the erroneously headlined story on The Associated Press wire: "Army captain from Fort Lewis, WA, drowns in the Philippines."
The item immediately captured my attention for two reasons: First, the struggle against Islamic terror in the Philippines is the topic of this week's episode of "War Stories" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. PDT). Second, but of greater import, while shooting this documentary, we lived in the field with U.S. and Filipino special operations troops working to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah -- terrorist groups closely affiliated with al-Qaida. As I read the article, I selfishly hoped that the soldier who had perished so far from home was not one of those we had come to know so well.
It turns out that 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, was not one of the brave Americans we lived alongside in the fetid jungle. According to a U.S. Army news release, he was on his first deployment and drowned in a training accident not far from where we were embedded with members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. The terse announcement, typical of those when special operations personnel are killed in the line of duty, noted that Curreri joined the Army in 2004 and that he "grew up in suburban Baltimore and swam and played water polo in high school before attending University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He was a four-year letterman on the USC swim team and captain of the team in his senior year."
Now in case you or any of the Democratic candidates, who discussed UFOs in this week's nationally televised debate, missed it, here are the salient parts of this story:
Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri is now a deceased American hero. He was smart; he had to be to get into USC. He was a gifted athlete -- the captain of his college swim team. With our nation already at war, he volunteered to serve in the Special Forces. And when he died, he was serving our country in the southern Philippines helping their fight against radical Islam.
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.