View Full Version : Unassuming Oliver North called 'truly a class act'

12-29-07, 06:38 AM
Bona fide military celebrity visits troops
Unassuming Oliver North called 'truly a class act'
Posted: December 29, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

Editor's note: Reporter Matt Sanchez, currently embedding with military units throughout both Iraq and Afghanistan, has been providing WND readers with a glimpse into the war on terror most Americans have never seen.

By Matt Sanchez

I first remember seeing Col. Oliver North raising his hand and giving testimony in front of Congress. As a kid, I didn't understand much about the televised and highly publicized Iran Contra Affair hearings, all I saw was a man in uniform raising his hand and answering questions. But so much of communication has little to do with what is actually said.

"I did do it, I am not, as I said in my statement, at all ashamed of any of the things I did. I had a mission and I tried to carry it out," he said.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the political forum today willing to make such an unequivocal, straight-forward comment. As the long Iran-Contra drama continued, the colonel kept his composure, appeared determined and made a great impression on me.

Of course, not everyone agreed, and, over the years, I have heard lots of criticism of Oliver North, but even as a kid, I just knew I had to go with my gut feeling. For me, Col. North was a decent guy, no matter what his detractors said.

A few years later, I ran into Oliver North at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) where he proved to be just that, a really nice grandfatherly type who took the time to give me advice on my upcoming embed.

"Go see Sheik Sattar, he's doing a lot of good in Ramadi." In Kuwait, several months later, I saw the colonel again. He had just finished a tour of Iraq, his 9th, according to his recollection!

"I've actually spent more time in Iraq than in Vietnam," the colonel told me. It was a cold and unforgiving day in Kuwait. Those who have been there can tell you just how inhospitable Kuwait can be, especially the camps. Col. North came in soaking wet, after insisting on carrying his own heavy luggage.

The C-13 arriving from Baghdad was over four hours late. The colonel and his Fox News crew were tired, hungry and eager to get back to the United States. That did not, however, prevent the colonel from taking the time to speak to each and every soldier, airman, Marine and sailor who approached him – and there were many.

As the host of War Stories Oliver North is the closest thing to a bona fide military celebrity. After drying off and changing into a pressed shirt and slacks (It's hard to imagine anyone having anything pressed in a place like Iraq or Kuwait) North tucked and pleated his shirt as if he were wearing his "charlies" service "c" Marine uniform, and stuck around to greet people, despite having to get to the airport, pack his bags and media equipment.

One by one, curious onlookers asked if they could take their picture with North, and in the most unassuming way, this native of San Antonio, Texas, spoke to these young men and women as if he were picking up a conversation they had begun sometime in the recent past.

For two hours straight, Oliver North spoke and took pictures. Always unassuming, always thanking the younger men and women for their service, North was truly a class act. I've met plenty of celebrities who fall short. In fact, an earlier Fox reporter had come through and left a terrible impression with the Media Transition Team. It seems he was late for a Christmas party in New York and expected his media representatives to change regulations and protocols to conform to his social schedule.

North, however, was exceedingly gracious and the real deal. A man who has earned his distinction, and someone the soldiers respected.

We finally got to dinner at the only Chinese restaurant on base. After an hour of conversation covering everything from politics to war strategy, North stole away, and picked up the tab for the entire meal.

Since 2001, over 1 million troops have passed in and out of Kuwait. The country invaded by Saddam Hussein in 1991 is a military staging area with much of the equipment going "up north" starting down south in what was formerly occupied territory. There are still remnants of battle damage caused by Iraqi aggression and Kuwaitis are unabashedly thankful for the international coalition that freed them in the early 90's.

There are plenty of friendly faces in Kuwait, so I was not entirely surprised to see one of them. Melanie Morgan, radio host, columnist, mother and author, also finds time to lead one of the largest veterans organizations in the country. With over a million members, Move America Forward rallies home support, tours the country and even finds time to send care packages overseas. The coffee and cookies are appreciated and devoured by troops serving throughout the war zones.

With Melanie was Debbie Lee, mother of Marc Lee, the first Navy Seal to be killed in Iraq. Debbie is a Gold Star mom, and although the war has handed her a terrible loss, I don't think I've seen anyone so proud of their child. Fellow Seals have practically adopted "Mama Lee" and many were concerned about her trip to Iraq. Melanie and Debbie spoke to a group of departing soldiers who gave the ladies a standing ovation.

A Marine staff sergeant approached Melanie and asked if she knew a Gold Star mother from Sacramento. Melanie nodded, and the Marine presented Melanie with a bracelet he had worn during his recent deployment. The name on the bracelet was Cpl. Travis Layfield, a 19-year-old originally from Fremont, Calif. Cpl. Layfield was killed in Fallujah on the 6th of April 2004 along with 10 other Marines that day. The staff sergeant had been Layfield's recruiter. He had carried the bracelet memorializing his fellow Marine during his deployment and he wanted Gold Star mom Diane Layfield to have it.