BRANSON, Mo. -- They have come from every state in the union -- more than 50,000 veterans and their families. They are here to celebrate "Veterans Homecoming Week" in a city that "never forgets our heroes," where businesses proclaim to "hire veterans first" and entertainers proudly announce the units with which they served -- to the applause and cheers of fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines. They come for reunions with comrades from campaigns in faraway places and to remember their shared sacrifice in long-ago battles. They come here because Tony Orlando's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" melody means something special to them and because the parade down Branson's Main Street every Nov. 11 reminds them of -- well -- America.
For nearly a decade, it has been my great privilege to interview thousands of our active duty military personnel, veterans and their families. Fox News has sent me to every theater of war in which Americans have fought since World War II -- and given me the opportunity to keep company with heroes. For two years in a row, I have covered this remarkable celebration in Branson. Last year, it was just days after a presidential election, and among the thousands of vets and their families, there was a sense of "watchful waiting." Because Americans in general -- and veterans in particular -- are innately fair, they were willing to give a new commander in chief and his administration a chance. That "decent interval" is over.
This year, we arrived just four days after the terrible carnage at Fort Hood. Within hours, it was clear these veterans -- normally reticent, rarely outspoken, invariably polite -- are, in their terms, "fed up" with our national leadership.
The veterans who spoke with me in Branson this year do not represent all 20 million American veterans and their families, and this is hardly a "scientific sampling" of public opinion. Everyone here knows I work for Fox News. Most are fans of the network. Some are veterans I previously have interviewed for "War Stories" or for Fox News in Iraq, Afghanistan or here in Branson.
But these men and women really are a cross section of mainstream America. Most served a single "hitch" in the military. About 25 percent of them are "retirees." All of them self-identify as respected community leaders at home. Many have sons, daughters or grandchildren serving in today's armed forces. Some now serve or have served in local or state elected or appointed office, and many volunteered their party affiliations.
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.