By Oliver North,, April 16, 2004

LtCol Oliver L. North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance. An educational and charitable foundation, the Alliance was founded in 1990 by LtCol North, who now serves as the organization’s honorary chairman. The committee works to promote freedom and liberty, support the American military and educate American youth about the military.

Ar-Ramadi, Iraq - The Marines here in ar-Ramadi are continuing a 200 year old tradition in the United States Marine Corps - fighting terrorists. The Corps’ history of fighting terrorists dates back to 1804, when Marine 1st Lt Presley O’Bannon led his men to defeat the Barbary Pirates. In more recent history, Marines have battled terrorists in Tehran, Kuwait, Madrid, Beirut, Bogota, San Salvador, Frankfurt, West Berlin, Riyadh, Dhahan, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Aden, to name just a few places. Marines also have the honor and responsibility of providing security at U.S. embassies around the world, a favorite target of terrorists.

The creed under which they work is Semper Fidelis - “Always Faithful.” Faithful to their commanders, their mission, their nation, their fellow Marines with whom they are currently serving, and the example of Marines who served before them.

During a morning ceremony earlier this week, 20 Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. Those injuries resulted from some of the toughest battles and fire fights we’ve seen in over a year when Marines were marching to Baghdad. More than 116 Marines in this unit have received the Purple Heart so far and over 70 of them have decided to stay in Iraq, fight with their units and accomplish the mission rather than return home, even though, by consequence of their wounds, they can do so.

I asked Lt David Dobb, who sustained injuries to his hand, why so many of these young men decided to stick it out even though they’d been hurt? “This is what these Marines signed up to do,” he told me, “and we’re going to see this mission through until the job’s done the way it is supposed to be done.”
Sgt Kenneth Conde, a squad leader with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, was leading his platoon in a nighttime raid this week when insurgents tried to ambush the platoon, fighting broke out and he was hit in the shoulder. The enemy didn’t last long, however, because Marines own the night. Their remarkably sophisticated night vision equipment and training give them a significant strategic advantage. During nighttime missions this week, Marines have made significant progress de-arming the enemy. They’ve collected ordnance, mortar rounds, artillery rounds and improvised explosive devices.

After Sgt Conde was hit, he continued fighting and ultimately, in addition to the weapons, six terrorists were captured and taken off the streets of ar-Ramadi. Sgt Conde, because of his grievous wounds, could have had a ticket home, yet he decided to stay with this battalion as a squad leader. I asked him why. “There was no other choice for a Sergeant in the Marine Corps,” Conde explained, “you have to lead your Marines.”