Oliver North

WASHINGTON -- Freedom Alliance is an educational and charitable foundation that, among other things, provides college scholarships to the offspring of U.S. military personnel killed in action. Every year, coincident with the Army-Navy game, the organization presents its "Defender of Freedom Award" to an individual whose character, courage and selfless deeds inspire virtuous service from the rest of us. This year's recipient, U.S. Marine Andrew Kinard, unequivocally meets these criteria.

On Oct. 29, 2006, Kinard was leading his Marines on a foot patrol in Rawah, Iraq -- searching for a terrorist bomb factory -- when a command-detonated IED exploded directly next to his left leg. The blast blew him into the air, and he landed almost 20 feet from the crater. Three other Marines were wounded.

According to those who were there, before the grievously injured officer passed out from loss of blood, he ordered them to set up security, get a head count, and start treating the other injured Marines. The platoon corpsman tried to stanch the flow of blood but couldn't find enough undamaged tissue to apply tourniquets, and Kinard was losing blood from almost everywhere.

A Casevac helicopter airlifted him to the Marine air base at al-Asad and then to the Army trauma hospital in Balad, north of Baghdad. Sixty-seven pints of whole blood -- more than five times the number in a healthy adult -- were pumped into the failing officer's veins in a 24-hour period.

By the time he was flown to Landstuhl, Germany, in a C-17 Nightingale, he had gone into cardiac arrest and been resuscitated twice. Emergency surgeries went on nearly nonstop to plug the seemingly innumerable holes punched in his body. The family was alerted, and a prayer vigil was held. Hundreds of people half a world away went to their knees and begged God for a miracle.

Some miracles happen immediately. This one took a while.

Four days after being blasted to pieces, Andrew Kinard was in the intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., with his family around his bedside -- and still praying. By the time I got back from Iraq, just before Christmas 2006, "Drew" -- as his Marine and Naval Academy friends call him -- already had endured more than two dozen surgeries.

His doctor told me that the 24-year-old Marine was "getting better," even though Kinard had pneumonia, a blood infection and multiple perforations of his intestines from shrapnel. They had just done one of the many skin grafts necessary to prepare his stumps for prosthetic limbs.

Oliver North

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.