Lt. Col. Oliver North, a highly decorated combat veteran who parlayed his battlefield experiences into a job as a Fox News commentator and an author, says America has turned the tide toward victory in the war against terrorism.

In the same interview with The Register-Herald, in advance of his weekend appearance in Beckley, the Vietnam War veteran described daily Bible reading as his “oxygen for the day” and says Americans seldom hear the truth about acts of heroism and compassion by the troops, so he decided to pen a new book to get the word out.

North plans to address A Memorial Celebration at the Beckley-Raleigh Convention Center on Saturday in a speech arranged by Faith Baptist Church and one of its members, Chuck Holton, a former Army ranger and co-author and frequent traveler with the Marine.

As he formerly walked down the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi, “two of the most notoriously dangerous places in Iraq,” North recalled, he always wound up in the enemy’s gunsights.

The last time he and Holton strolled into a market there, the pair was unarmed and without flak jackets and helmets, North told the newspaper.

“I believe we are winning the war against terrorism,” he said.

More children attend school than before and most schools have either been rebuilt or are in the stages of reconstruction, he said.

“There is more health care, more sanitation, more clean water and more electricity than ever before for the people in Iraq,” North said.

“Opening police stations and schools on the mean streets of Ramadi may not appear to be great victories to the critics of the war on terrorism. However, they are precisely the kind of events that resulted from Sattar’s Awakening. They’re also significant to the U.S. troops who make them happen.”

North, probably the most famous Marine that America has produced since a flag-planting ceremony in World War II, said all Americans 10 years and up need to remember the carnage of 9/11 since it was an event that forever altered the way this nation viewed its place in the world, just like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Providing U.S. citizens security at home is part of the war against terrorism, “and from that perspective, this war has been hugely successful,” North said.

“But we should never forget that to continue to win the war on terror we must stop the terrorists where they live — places like Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

Interest in military not waning

Absent any impending security threat and given the current economic strains, North said it is understandable that Americans collectively have shifted some attention from military readiness to personal needs.

In his travels across the country, however, North said he finds interest hasn’t paled in the military.

Actually, he said, the problem is that the average American “rarely hears the truth about what these amazing young men and women — true heroes — are accomplishing.”

For that reason, North said he embarked on his latest book, “American Heroes,” so Americans get the accurate picture of “bravery, selflessness, compassion and honor that the men and women of our military show on a daily basis...”

North took umbrage at a New York Times columnist who portrayed military men and women as “nothing but poor kids from Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, who couldn’t get a decent job or health insurance.”

“Unfortunately, that’s a wrong opinion that’s too often portrayed by members of the media,” said North, who was wounded twice in the Vietnam War.

“The fact is, I’ve spent the better part of 40 years either serving in uniform or around those who are, and I’ve never seen so many intelligent, honorable, amazing young men and women. We have never had a better military force than the one we have today.”

Not ashamed of Judeo-Christian values

Not a day dawns that North isn’t engaged in Bible reading or prayer, and he unabashedly and unapologetically proclaims his Christian faith.

“I think it’s important to describe ourselves as who we really are,” he said.

“I’m not one for pulling punches. As individuals and as a country, Christianity shapes the way we view the world, and our Judeo-Christian value system has been a major impetus behind the many battles we’ve fought to bring freedom to others. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that.”

As for his daily spiritual exercise, North referred to it as “my oxygen for the day.”

“In all my years in and around the military, I have never seen so many flock to chapel services, Bible study groups and prayer sessions,” he said.

“I have seen them put pocket Bibles into their flak jackets and gather in a prayer circle before and after dangerous missions. The behavior of these young warriors thrust into the most dangerous circumstances reflects faith forged in a culture that does not seem to comprehend who they are — or their spiritual underpinnings.”

Greatest strength, weakness same

North views the nation’s greatest strength and worst weakness in the same vein — the spirit of altruism and compassion for others.

“On the one hand, American soldiers literally volunteer to go into harm’s way to help those who are less fortunate, repressed or in need,” he said, noting he alluded to a number of such examples in his latest book.

“For the members of the U.S. military, compassion is not only a virtue, it’s a policy,” he said.

“On the other hand, to our enemies, compassion is a weakness that they often try to exploit,” he said.

“Yet, compassion — as much as the force of arms — is a key to winning, not just the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan but the long deadly struggle against merciless Jihadists.”

In summing his answer, North quoted an Army chaplain in Mosul as expressing what he felt best:

“That’s the difference between the terrorists and us. Don’t you understand? That’s the difference.”

— E-mail:

mannix@register-herald.com

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