This past Wednesday, January 17th marked the 27th anniversary of when Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. There are certain events in lifethat take us back to a time when we will always remember what we were doing, and who we were with. Operation Desert Storm seems to be one of those events for millions of people around the world. I had the honor of being one of the five hundred thousand American military members who were given the opportunity to assist in liberating Kuwait. For me, it is an honor I will never forget. On that day 27 years ago, I was in the middle of the Saudi Arabian Desert at an airport that had yet to be built. At the time, the airport wasn’t much more than a couple of runways and taxiways. The terminal for what was to become King Fahd International Airport was hardly more than a frame.
Working that night on a midnight shift, I was posted as a Security Respose Team leader on the west side of the flightline called the Bravo area. Myself and A1C James Neslon had been riding around the flightline noticing the aircraft taking off. We took particular notice to how that night was different than any of the previous nights over the past five months we had been working. The aircraft were using more of the runway to get airborne, they were weighted down with much more armament and that could only mean one thing, Desert Shield was about to become Desert Storm. Shortly after the aircraft shot off into the darkness of the desert night, A1C Nelson and I went over to check on the airman posted at Bravo 1, the entry control point for the area. As we were visiting the airman making sure he was alert and not in need of anything, standing outside of the vehicle listening to the radio, we heard the news that Operation Desert Storm had begun.
My Heart Sank
It was in that moment that my heart sank, and it had nothing to to do with fear that the war was now starting and soon we would be in combat. My thoughts traveled back to Newtown Square and my family. You see, because it was only 0300 there in Saudi Arabia, that mean it was 1900 hours back home on January 16th. It was my mother’s birthday. All I could think of at that moment was that I had to find a way to call home and make sure my mom was okay. I knew that the knews of the war begining would ruin her birthday. I knew people would be bombarding her with questions like: “I saw/heard on the news today…” I was painfully aware of that the media twists things and edits news to suit what will sell the most. However, I did know my mom knew better, but I felt the need to know for sure that she was okay and still had a good birthday.
Back at our Tent
I finished working my shift and when we returned to our tents we were met with a letter from General Schwarzkopf that read:
“Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of the United States Central Command:
This morning at 0300 we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nations resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. The President, the Congress, the American people and indeed the world stand united in their support for your actions.
You are a member of the most powerful force our country, in coalition with our allies, has ever assembled in a single theater to face such an aggressor. You have trained hard for this battle and you are ready. During my visits with you, I have seen in your eyes a fire of determination to get this job done quickly so that we may all return to the shores of our great nation. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.”
Still thinking of how this news must have ruined my mother’s birthday, I resigned to the fact that there was nothing I could do from a half a world away except do my part to make sure I and those I had the honor to serve in this war with made it home safely to our children and the rest of our families.I would venture to say that being a military mom is really tough. Just like I missed my mom’s birthday, she missed mine, and so many holidays and special occasions. But, my mom is one tough cookie and knowing her, she resigned herself to thinking, I was where I needed to be doing the job I was trained for.
Luckily, we made it back to our shores safely and victorious having driven Iraq out of Kuwait and returned the nation to its rightful leaders. I am forever greatful to have had the honor to serve our great nation and to have stood beside of some of the greatest men and women to ever walk this planet. I salute every one of you and thank you for always protecting my 6.