Nearly all the Marines here have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both theaters of this decadelong war. They know the true meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice. Many of them have lost comrades in arms on bloody battlefields along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and in the shadows of the Hindu Kush. Though my "colleagues" in the mainstream media often portray these campaigns as "lost causes" and "wasteful," that's not how these warriors see it. They know they have made a difference for the country they volunteered to serve.
During our six hours at this "Crossroads of the Marine Corps," we talked with more than a dozen young Marines. All of them are proud of their service to our country. They all came or stayed because of what happened on 9/11. Without hubris or arrogance, they dismiss the criticism of politicians and pundits who posit that the sacrifices they have made are for naught or that the losses they have experienced have been in vain. Even more impressive are the comments of parents and loved ones who have had to bear the burden of losing a child, parent or sibling.
Over the course of 10 years covering this war for Fox News, I have met scores of Gold Star families -- the widows, children, parents and siblings of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I've attended far too many funerals and memorial services with grief-stricken relatives of the young Americans we were privileged to spend time with in difficult and dangerous places. Yet despite the anguish and palpable sense of loss, there is always a tangible sense of pride in what their fallen family members accomplished in their all-too-brief time on this earth.
This week, standing in front of Conde Hall, headquarters of the Marine Corps' Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy, we interviewed the father of the Marine for whom the building is named, Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. In 2004, our Fox News team was embedded with Sgt. Conde's mobile assault platoon of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Ramadi, Iraq. On April 6, his squad was ambushed by a numerically superior al-Qaida insurgent force armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
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.