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Gulf War anniversary brings back memories

This page was last modified on 20 April 2012.

Contents


Published 23 January 1992 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Gulf War anniversary brings back memories

by James M. Wallace
Columnist

Like most Americans, I experienced the Gulf War primarily through television and radio, but, as an activated Reservist assigned to the Personnel Division at Ft. Bragg's Womack Army Community Hospital, I also experienced the war more intimately than most Americans.

Now, a year later, my mind is flooded with so many memories.

One of my duties was to type leave forms for soldiers going on medical leave. Many of my clients had been med-evacced from "the Sandbox" (Saudi Arabia), so I got regular briefings on the deployment.

About a week or two prior to the start of the air campaign, one of these soldiers told me that everyone was ready to come home even if it meant fighting their way through Baghdad.

He said to me, "They had better let us go kill Iraqis before we start killing each other." Five months in the desert was obviously taking their toll.

I was watching the evening news on ABC when the first report came in from Baghdad. We were at war.

I was relieved that the ambiguity of whether and when there would be war had been removed, and I dreaded what was to come. It's a duality that only a soldier can understand.

As some 30,000 of the deployed troops were from Ft. Bragg, Womack was a designated casualty reception center.

We spent what should have been a three-day King holiday weekend moving all of the administrative functions out of the hospital to make more room for the expected casualties.

The irony of preparing to receive the victims of the ultimate violence on what should have been a day to honor a man who taught non-violence did not escape me.

I was typing a leave for a fellow sergeant when the report of the Iraqi attack on Khafgi came over the radio in my office. A dozen U.S. Marines and at least 150 Iraqis were reported killed. After the Iraqi casualties were given, I snarled in a soldier's rage, "Not enough!"

The sergeant angrily agreed, "You got that right!" You can never get enough payback.

While I was typing his leave form, a young private asked me if there were a lot of protesters. I assured him that most people supported the war.

I told him that most of the protesters were Sixties-wannabe's who chanted "No blood for oil!" without comprehending the need to protect our access to an economically vital natural resource. I was amazed that he was so worried about being abandoned like the Vietnam veterans were. He was fighting the last war.

As Saddam Hussein's "mother of all battles" turned into "the mother of all surrenders," I was appalled at the condition of the Iraqi soldiers.

No soldiers should be reduced to that. As a soldier, I expect to be used, I accept the possibility of being used up, but I'll be damned if I'll be wasted.

The Butcher of Baghdad added the wasting of at least 100,000 of his soldiers to his long list of crimes. I won't cry when he's finally hung by his heels.

I will never forget the Gulf War.

James M. Wallace is a senior majoring in Finance.

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Original unedited column as submitted to The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

Remembering Desert Storm

by James M. Wallace

Like most Americans, I experienced the Gulf War primarily through television and radio, but, as an activated Reservist assigned to the Personnel Division at Ft. Bragg's Womack Army Community Hospital, I also experienced the war more intimately than most Americans. Now, a year later, my mind is flooded with so many memories.

One of my duties was to type leave forms for soldiers going on medical leave. Many of my clients had been med-evacced from "the Sandbox" (Saudi Arabia), so I got regular briefings on the deployment. About a week or two prior to the start of the air campaign, one of these soldiers told me that everyone was ready to come home even if it meant fighting their way through Baghdad. He said to me, "They had better let us go kill Iraqis before we start killing each other." Five months in the desert was obviously taking its toll.

I was watching the evening news on ABC when the first report came in from Baghdad. We were at war. I was relieved that the ambiguity of whether and when there would be war had been removed, and I dreaded what was to come. It's a duality that only a soldier can understand.

As some 30,000 of the deployed troops were from Ft. Bragg, Womack was a designated casualty reception center. We spent what should have been a three-day King holiday weekend moving all of the administrative functions out of the hospital to make more room for the expected casualties. The irony of preparing to receive the victims of the ultimate violence on what should have been a day to honor a man who taught non-violence did not escape me.

I was typing a leave for a fellow sergeant when the report of the Iraqi attack on Khafgi came over the radio in my office. A dozen U.S. Marines and at least 150 Iraqis were reported killed. After the Iraqi casualties were given, I snarled in a soldier's rage, "Not enough!" The sergeant angrily agreed, "You got that right!" You can never get enough payback.

While I was typing his leave form, a young private asked me if there were a lot of protesters. I assured him that most people supported the war. I told him that most of the protesters were 'Sixties wannabes who chanted "No blood for oil!" without comprehending the need to protect our access to an economically vital natural resource. I was amazed that he was so worried about being abandoned like the Viet Nam veterans were. He was fighting the last war.

As Saddam Hussein's "mother of all battles" turned into "the mother of all surrenders," I was appalled at the condition of the Iraqi soldiers. No soldiers should be reduced to that. As a soldier, I expect to be used, I accept the possibility of being used up, but I'll be damned if I'll be wasted. The Butcher of Baghdad added the wasting of at least 100,000 of his soldiers to his long list of crimes. I won't cry when he's finally hung by his heels.

I will never forget the Gulf War.

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Letters to the Editor published 30 January 1992 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), copyright 1992 by The Carolinian

View of Gulf War one-sided

This a response to James Wallace's column last week. We, too, will never forget the Gulf War. However, I'm sure we will remember it in a very different light than does Wallace-- not as a military victory, but as an unnecessary slaughter of both military personnel and innocent civilians.

The U.S. must accept culpability for the thousands of Iraqi civilians who died or suffered, and are suffering still because of our unquenchable thirst for oil. One may call it "an economically vital natural resource" if it makes a person feel better.

Of course, that's not all the war was about; it also concerned our sphere of influence, the protection of a secret military base in Kuwait, and protection of U.S. trade interests, among other things. It was not about restoring nonexistant democracy to power in Kuwait.

The real issue is: was it worth it? Is this country's convenient access to even an "economically vital natural resource" worth the death and suffering of thousands of people, the monumental environmental destruction that is still going on, and the endangerment of our own troops?

It is not that I hope to convince Wallace that the Gulf War should not have happened, that the embargo was not given the necessary time to work, or that all diplomatic negotiation possibilities were not exhausted. As Bush said, "We will not negotiate with terrorists."

The fact that he considers 150 Iraqi casualties as "not enough" rather than 150 "too many" convinces me that would be an impossibility.

While Wallace remembers the war and finds the "condition of Iraqi soldiers" as they surrendered to U.S. troops appalling, this is the only tragedy you seem to find apparent. I, and many others, will remember it and mourn the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives.

Erin Northrup
The writer is a senior.

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Gulf War protestors justified

Ignorance prevails in James M. Wallace's column of January 30, "Gulf War anniversary brings back memories." While certainly Mr. Wallace is entitled to his own perspective, his commentary is very shortsighted.

In particular, I am referring to his derisive remarks about Gulf War protestors. I was among those who objected to the battle in the Gulf, and to this day I staunchly believe we did the wrong thing. But I am no "sixties wannabe," nor am I uncomprehending of the economic importance of oil. To the contrary-- and I think I speak for most Gulf War protestors, I am a modern-day citizen and I oppose violence in any context.

I think Mr. Wallace needs to cut through his jingoism and see that those Americans who protest war-- be it in the 60s or the 90s-- care very deeply for their country as well as for the world at large. When Wallace writes the number of Iraqi casualties not being sufficient payback, his own concern for humanity comes into question. Saddam Hussein-- who I will remind you Mr. Wallace, is still in power-- may be a tyrant, but I think columnists who attach pejorative labels to socially aware citizens and who advocate a bloodbath for oil are pretty scary, too.

Alison Wimsatt
The writer is a graduate student.

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