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Published November 18 2010

Oliver North shares ‘War Stories’ in speech

Oliver North quips that on the heels of his latest book tour, his bosses at the Fox News Channel gave him a choice: His next stop would either be Fargo or Kandahar, Afghanistan.

He said it was an easy call.

“It’s a lot nicer here,” said North, speaking before a sold-out group of about 500 at the Fargo Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday. He was the first speaker in a new series put on by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, which is seeking to bring in business and policy leaders each year.

A longtime officer in the U.S. Marine corps and a former counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration, North has forged a second career as a best-selling author and media personality – after his speech, fans lined up to have him sign copies of his latest book, “American Heroes.” He hosts the documentary series “War Stories” on Fox News, and also writes a nationally syndicated column.

North has cultivated a robust following as a conservative commentator – he once ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican – but his chamber speech on Wednesday was not especially policy-centric. Chamber president Craig Whitney said the chamber series would involve speakers of “all political persuasions.”

North focused on praising the work of today’s military personnel, which he described as “the best and brightest” generation of soldiers yet.

“I keep company with heroes for a living,” he said. “Those are the heroes that give me confidence about the future.”

North shared a number of anecdotes from his time in the field. He described a soldier who called him over during a late-night march to share what he’d just learned via his Predator drone uplink: Air Force beat Navy in college football. He showed a photo of an American soldier who waded into a fierce firefight to carry a wounded member of Iraq’s Republican Guard – his adversary – to safety.

North, who was on the scene, watched a Reuters photography crew question the soldier’s priorities.

“Didn’t you notice he was Iraqi?” one photographer asked. The soldier responded with an explicit gesture, replying, “Didn’t you notice he was wounded?” That anecdote touched on North’s expressed disdain for most media outlets and pundits, which he said do not afford today’s soldiers enough respect.

North’s primary business advice came in the form of an admonition to employers to give veterans a look. He said nearly 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – a group he lauded as capable and responsible – are unemployed.

“You cannot, as I know the law, say, ‘Veterans only need apply,’ ” he said. “But you can post a help wanted notice and say, ‘Veterans, please apply.’ ”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502