I served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) from December 1987 to December 1991. Those were some of the most memorable times of my life. I felt I should create this page to share some of these experiences.

The photo above was taken February 23, 1991, the day before the ground attack during the first Gulf War. While the Iraqi Army expected the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) to launch an amphibious assault, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) attacked from Saudi Arabia through the minefields into Kuwait. My unit, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) was the front and center (spearhead) battalion of this nine battalion attack. In this picture, the sky is black from the oil well smoke after Saddam's troops set them afire. But behind the photographer were clear skies that allowed the landscape to be illuminated all the way to the horizon.

 Training and Duty Stations

This section is about the places I was stationed, either for training or because it was my permanent duty station.

Boot Camp: January 6 to March 18, 1988Open accordion icon
I attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, California. My platoon was 1002. I was a below average recruit.

Mission: To aquire the basic skills, knowledge, and behavior of a Marine.

Comments: The chow was pretty good.

The below snapshot shows me with my senior drill instructor, Staff Sergeant J.L. Mincey, on graduation day. It is hard to get a good photo of someone in that California sun when they wear those Smokey the Bear hats.
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School of Infantry (SOI): April 18 to June 24, 1988Open accordion icon
I attended SOI at Camp Pendleton, California. I was attached to Alpha Company.

Mission: To develop infantry skills and specialized training in the manipulation and firing of the 81mm mortar and the 60mm mortar.

Comments: Those guns are pretty darn loud.

Here's where I did my training. Not a bad-looking place.
Rolling hills at Camp Pendleton

Here's another view.
Another view of Camp Pendleton

These are Marines from my infantry class. Caulder is the big guy in the blue shirt and Brent "Cowboy" Grillo is the one in the cowboy hat. I'm the goofy-looking one in the military-issue glasses.

Here's a much better picture of me. I think it was taken while I was at SOI but I'm not certain.
Black and white picture of me in cammies
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Security Forces School: June 25 to August 1, 1988Open accordion icon
I attended Security Forces School at Little Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was in class 19-88. I served as a team leader.

Mission: To train in pistol, shotgun, physical security measures, riot control, apprehension of prisoners, and anti-terrorist tactics.

Comments: This school rocks! I would gladly attend it again. We spent a whole week shooting pistols, then a whole week shooting shotguns. We learned to shoot fast and accurately. We also got to do fancy stuff like shooting a shotgun with one hand and bringing the gun to the ready from the African carry position. In the last week we got to do tactical maneuvers and use paintball weapons. They were crappy revolvers but since I didn't know anyone else who got to play paintball back in 1988, I felt kinda special. The food at Dam Neck Naval Base was the best military chow I've ever eaten!

Here I am with some of my classmates. In the back from left to right are Shaun Derek Siple, Waskom, Joseph Zimmerman (flipping the bird), and Mark Anthony Valero. In the front from left to right are me, Paul Wesley Smith, and Shulskie.
Me with my Security Forces School classmates
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Sea Duty: August 2, 1988 to August 15, 1990Open accordion icon
I served with a Marine Detachment aboard the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Virginia. As of August 1990, the USS John F. Kennedy (JFK) was the world's largest conventionally powered aircraft carrier. It was christened on May 27, 1967. It had a length of 1072 feet. It was decommissioned on August 1, 2007.

Mission: To provide security and other duties as the ship's commanding officer may see fit (e.g. sweeping, swabbing, waxing, and buffing the deck).

Comments: Sea duty has its ups and downs, even when the boat isn't rocking. I don't take to boats very well unless they are kayaks so I wasn't too happy to be stationed aboard a naval vessel for over two years. But if I had to be on a boat, then an aircraft carrier is probably the best since they don't rock as much as other boats. And yes, I did get seasick. The work wasn't very interesting or fun. But I did get to travel and see the world.

Shortly after I arrived, we left for a Mediterranean (Med) Cruise which lasted from August 2, 1988 to February 1, 1989. Special Services arranged to make tours available that even us lower-ranking enlisted men could afford.
  • Naples, Italy: August 20, 1988 to August 27, 1988. Tour of Capri (island).
  • Alexandria, Egypt: August 30, 1988 to September 4, 1988. Tour of Cairo.
  • Toulon, France: September 11, 1988 to September 21, 1988. Tour of St. Tropez.
  • Antalya, Turkey: October 10, 1988 to October 17, 1988. This was my favorite place. I loved how it had some features of the Middle East and some of Europe.
  • Tunis, Tunisia: October 21, 1988 to October 24, 1988. Tour of Carthage.
  • Palma, Spain: October 28, 1988 to November 4, 1988. Tour of Palma de Mallorca.
  • Naples, Italy: November 14, 1988 to November 18, 1988. Tour of Rome.
  • Marseilles, France: November 23, 1988 to November 28, 1988. Tour of Paris.
  • Palma, Spain: December 15, 1988 to December 20, 1988.
  • Cannes, France: December 23, 1988 to January 1, 1989.
  • Haifa, Israel: January 6, 1989 to January 9, 1989. Tour of Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jordan River, and Nazareth.

  • We also did some domestic trips from March 1989 to August 1990.
  • Manhattan, New York City, New York
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Jacksonville, Florida. I did trips to Disneyworld, Sea World, and Daytona Beach.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I did a snorkeling tour of John Pennekamp State Park.

  • The JFK (aka "Big John") was virtually a "floating city" with a crew and air group of 5000 officers and men (no women back then). Its home port was Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia.
    Postcard photo of the ship

    Private First Class Saki, 1988.
    A very young me in dress blues

    I was recognized as Marine of the Quarter from October to December 1988 and was meritoriously promoted to corporal in March 1990. The commanding officer of the ship, Captain Denny Wisely, presented me with a Marine of the Quarter certificate on January 1989.
    The Captain of the ship presenting me with an award

    Here I am pretending to be a fighter pilot. Chicks dig fighter pilots. August 1988.
    Me by a fighter plane, I think an F-14

    We would evacuate weapons and ammunition during a main space fire drill. Here we wait, assembled in the hangar bay. July 1989.
    Lots of Marines in the hangar bay

    In August 1989, the crew wore different colored shirts to spell out "JFK" on the flight deck. I am near the top of the 'J'.
    Hundreds of us on the flight deck wearing shirts to spell out 'JFK'

    Sometime in 1989(?) I visited some fellow Marines who were stationed aboard the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) battleship at Norfolk, Virginia.
    Me in front of the USS Wisconsin

    A few years after I left the ship, Marines stopped serving in Marine Detachments aboard ships.
    Detachments of Marines have served aboard American naval vessels since the beginning of the Continental Marine Corps in 1775. That stretch of more than two centuries ended last May [1998] when officials at Marine Headquarters in Washington, D.C., opted to scuttle the detachments to free more Marines for Fleet Marine Force duty.
    - from Naval History and Heritage Command - The Corps' Salty Seadogs Have All But Come Ashore: Seagoing Traditions Founder as New Millennium Approaches
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    Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School: April 18 to May 18, 1990Open accordion icon
    While serving on Sea Duty, I got to attend NCO School in Quantico, Virginia. I was in class 6-90.

    Mission: To develop those leadership skills and qualities characteristic of a non-commissioned officer.

    Comments: The obstacles courses were fun and I enjoyed marching with a sword.

    Below is my NCO School squad. We were 4th squad (aka Dragons). Not sure how we got that name. From left to right in the top row are Cpl Warren, Cpl Mace, Cpl Chambers, Sgt Wade (squad advisor), Sgt Ulmer, Sgt Zincola, and Cpl Collins. In the bottom row are Cpl Burt, Cpl Murray, me, and Cpl Christian.
    Me and the rest of my squad at NCO School
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    2/2: September 20, 1990 to October 31, 1991Open accordion icon
    After leaving Sea Duty, I reported to my Fleet Marine Force grunt unit, Second battalion, Second Marines, Weapons company, 81mm Mortar platoon at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Our unit was known as 2/2. I liked to call us the "ballet battalion" because ballerinas wear tutus. The nickname never caught on.

    A few months after I arrived, my unit was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to fight in the Persian Gulf War (aka First Gulf War). Eventually, we returned to the states where I served a few more months with the unit. I commenced terminal leave on November 1, 1991 then was released from active duty on December 27, 1991.

    Mission: To provide indirect fire support as the battalion commander deemed necessary.

    Comments: After serving on the gun line assisting my squad leader during the war, I became a peacetime squad leader and forward observer. I developed some really close connections with my fellow Marines that I will always cherish.

    Here's Lcpl Wesley from Oklahoma (left) and Cpl Timothy James (right). Notice the camouflage netting over the vehicles in the back. October 1990.
    Setting up overnight accommodations in the field

    Not always content with issued gear, I often purchased my own. Notice my lightweight nylon dome tent and suspenders. 1991, post-war.
    Me with my non-issued gear

    The M1 Abrams tank is powerful, fast, sporty, and sexy...though not as sexy as an F-14 fighter jet. 1991, post-war.
    M1 Abrams tank in the field
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     Persian Gulf War: December 18, 1990 to April 11, 1991

    My unit, 2/2 served in
    Operation Desert Shield: December 18, 1990 to January 17, 1991
    Operation Desert Storm and after: January 17, 1991 to April 11, 1991

    Mission: Liberate Kuwait and force Iraqi withdrawal. While many later criticized George H.W. Bush's decision to not aggressively pursue the Iraqi Army into the heart of Iraq or to overthrow Saddam Hussein, some felt his decision at the time was a good one since the operation was a success, the number of American casualties was small, and the duration of the ground fighting only lasted about 100 hours. It might have been difficult to have obtained so much international support had he pursued a more ambitious goal.

    Comments: Without a doubt, these were my most memorable times in the Corps.

    Pre-deployment: September 20 to December 17, 1990Open accordion icon
    I had only been in my platoon for about three months after coming off two long years of Sea Duty. God knows how I hated that tour. As a corporal in an 81mm mortar platoon, I had much to learn and little time to learn it. Still, I seemed to have earned more respect than some of the other non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who recently came off Sea Duty or Barracks Duty. My positive attitude, eagerness to learn, and willingness to train made up, at least somewhat, for the fact that I hadn't fired a mortar in two years.

    Most people hated Camp Lejeune. It was swampy, hot and humid in the summer, far from any big cities, and had very few women. I heard that in the closest town, Jacksonville, North Carolina, the ratio of men to women was eight to one. But the way I figured, it was still better than Sea Duty.

    Many of our most experienced Marines who had completed their enlistment were called back once Desert Shield began. Needless to say, they weren't too happy about that. I, however, welcomed their knowledge. A few had negative attitudes about being involuntarily extended but most got over it quickly. They realized they had a job to do and do it well they would. With all those Marines called back, our platoon had over 80 people and looked more like a small company.

    My role in the war was to serve on the gun line. But if a forward observer became a casualty, I was to be his replacement. The forward observers were attached to the line companies. They stayed fairly close to the front and told the mortar platoon where to shoot via radio. A well trained forward observer can inflict quite a bit of damage on the enemy and thus are often targeted by enemy snipers. I was much more worried about doing a good job than becoming a casualty.

    Three of us in my platoon, including myself, took our preparation for the war quite seriously. In the desert, we knew we'd be able to see the enemy from far away so having any optical advantage could help considerably. Hence, we bought rifle scopes, scope mounts, and cheek rests. Black rifles in a desert just didn't seem right (or color coordinated) so I laid out white athletic tape and spray painted it desert colors. I figured that since athletic tape needs to stick to skin which sweats, it would probably work in the desert where the quick change in temperature could leave dew on a rifle. Maybe it was all for nothing but at the time, it made me feel a little better. I also plugged up the vents on my jungle boots with Bondo to keep the sand out. Desert boots were not yet part of the supply system. As long as we were still at Camp Lejeune, preparation and training was all we could do.

    When we weren't preparing or training, we were living it up. Knowing that we might be away from the comforts of home for a long time, we toured the various cheap bars in the Jacksonville area. Even though I didn't and still don't drink, I had a great time nonetheless. Getting off base was always refreshing and being in good company made it all the better. Most importantly, we were building strong social bonds that would help us get through the rough times.
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    Camp 15 - Desert Shield: December 18 to December 31, 1990Open accordion icon
    We left the states on a 747. No military transports for us. Apparently, there were so many troops being deployed, civilian aircraft were being called upon to help in the war effort. The mood was typical for a Marine unit. Lots of joking around. I remember my platoon-mates mimicking Hans and Frans calling each other "girlie men" and me having no idea what they were talking about since I hadn't seen Saturday Night Live in years.

    Here's Lcpl Redenbach sleeping on a 747 plane on the way to Saudi Arabia.
    Sleeping Marine wearing headphones

    Our plane landed in Saudi Arabia on December 18, 1990. We took buses to our first site, Al Jubail, Camp 15. This was known as Tent City. We lived in large squad-sized tents set on concrete slabs. Wooden outhouses with screens lined the perimeter of the camp. The chow hall was outdoors and was a "standing only" facility. Still, it provided hot meals. Shaving facilities consisted of a bowl on a table with a mirror. A small post exchange (PX) was about a 20 minute walk. It was a very small PX, yet I remember a friend buying a terrific bootleg "Best of Van Halen" cassette. Not the Sammy Hagar stuff either; 100% David Lee Roth.
    Lots of concrete slabs for squad-sized tents

    Here we are setting up the big tents at Tent City. December 1990.
    Marines setting up big tents

    I remember a bugler playing Christmas songs on December 25. Some half-jokingly said they wanted to kick his ass for making them homesick but I think we were all a little glad to have the music, even if he was at times off-key. Our battalion commander looked like a blend of Homer Simpson and the Grinch. Hence, in December, he was known as "the Grinch who stole Christmas."

    I saw quite a few familiar faces from earlier days of training. I remember one fellow in particular. His first name was Riyadh (just like the capital of Saudi Arabia). His last name was pronounced "Free-Gee" but I don't know how to spell it. He was one of the top graduates from School of Infantry (SOI), a good boxer, and a very likable fellow. Fair skinned and blonde, nobody expected that he was born in Lebanon and had served in the Lebanese Army. He spoke like Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman's character from the hit series "Taxi"). Riyadh served as a sniper, got to go to messenger school (where they ride around on dirt bikes), and eventually got attached to an intelligence unit because he was fluent in Arabic. Quite an interesting guy. I hope he made the Marines a career.

    Like every other Marine, I had an M16A2 service rifle. But I added a scope covered with a painted bicycle inner tube, painted athletic tape for camouflage, a bipod, Ranger assault sling, and a cheek rest. December 1990.
    Me aiming in with my rifle

    Here's another shot of me with my rifle. December 1990.
    Me holding my rifle

    This is me in the back of our Humvee, ready for a sandstorm during a training mission.
    Me with goggles sitting in a Humvee

    Here's some artillery at Tent City.
    Green camouflaged artillery
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    Rock Quarry - Desert Shield: December 31, 1990 to January ~7, 1991Open accordion icon
    After leaving Camp 15, we lived in the Rock Quarry which is literally what it was. Things actually got fun for awhile. We were away from Tent City and all the brass. Since I was with gun eight, we (and gun one) were as far from the platoon commander and platoon sergeant as possible. They stayed at the middle of the platoon and gun eight was on the left flank. Hence, we got away with more than those under closer scrutiny. We spent the first couple of days getting our gun pit set up and the camouflage netting put overhead. Then we played Hackysack. We took out part of the Humvee we didn't need, ran over it a few times to bend one side up, tied some parachute cord to it, and went sledding down the biggest rock pile in the quarry which was about three stories high. We did that for about ten minutes before the platoon sergeant had a fit.

    Outdoor showers were set up. These were just overhead containers with water that would get refilled once in awhile. To take a shower, you just stood under it and pulled a string. However, with the weather being what it was, taking a shower was the last thing on our minds. It was bitter cold. Then it started raining. It rained for four days straight. It was never a downpour but rather a light, continuous sprinkle. Just enough to keep things soaked and make you miserable. It wouldn't have been so bad had we prepared for it but who would have expected near freezing temperatures and rain in Saudi Arabia? We heard later that they had an unusual winter that year.

    It is often easy to tell during what part of the war a photo was taken by looking at the people. Early on, we looked younger and cleaner than later in the war. This photo was taken at the Rock Quarry. This was our first location away from Tent City. Our squad set up in an area surrounded by old tires and covered with camouflage netting. January 1991.
    Everyone in my squad minus me because I'm taking the picture

    Since we were gun eight, that meant we were eigth squad. From left to right in the back are Lcpl Kevin "Glucose" Beyea, Lcpl George "Slug" Garrett, Lcpl Chris "Shim" Stevenson, Doc Donald "Loogie" Mett, Pfc Carl "Bocephus" Wood, and me, Cpl Saki "Saki Fresh in Effect." In the front from left to right are Lcpl "Spokes" Webber, and Sgt Mike "Spicolli" Belford. We all had nicknames and nobody could choose their own. Only fighter pilots could choose their own least that's what we claimed.
    My squad in our gun pit

    With the threat of biological warfare, we were always on the lookout for dead animals. We were told to stay clear of them since they might carry anthrax. However, this dead camel had tractored vehicle prints alongside it which makes us question what killed it. Was it amtracs or anthrax? Poor camel.
    Dead camel in desert

    Here's gun eight at the rock quarry, far from the Kuwaiti border.
    Our gun pit

    Can you recognize me? I'm ready for a sandstorm. The parka I'm wearing supposedly helped make us less visible to night vision equipment. We called them our "breakfast parkas" because we were told to wear them at morning formation before chow.
    Me dressed for a sandstorm in front of a Humvee
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    Post Rock Quarry - Desert Shield: January ~7 to 17, 1991Open accordion icon
    After about a week at the rock quarry, we drove to a location closer to the Kuwaiti border. We would dig in for the first couple of days, do some training, and find things to keep us entertained when we weren't training. Hackysack, volleyball, and frisbee were popular. I spent a lot of time helping keep things neat and organized. We shared books, magazines, and food. When we received a package, we'd put any food we received in a box which we shared with the entire squad. We called it our "Communist Box."

    A resupply truck came by once every two weeks at first. We could buy batteries, razors, soap, toothpaste, chewing tobacco, and cigarettes. Out of eight people, six in my squad smoked, and two chewed tobacco. Only me and one other did neither. Some people who had quit smoking started up again during the war. They blamed it on the boredom. The smokers in my squad all pitched in lots of money and bought an MRE case full of Marlboro reds. Our squad leader knew we couldn't count on resupply to be regular so he encouraged the smokers to stock up. Sure enough, the resupply truck came by a couple of weeks later, then less and less frequently, especially as we got closer to the front. Most of our paychecks were being put into direct deposit but some was paid to us in cash every two weeks so we could buy supplies. But with nothing to buy, money lost its worth. To the smokers, cigarettes were more valuable than money, and compared to other squads, my squad was rich. My squad also had more than its share of married men and hence, we received many care packages. The care packages sent to "any Marine" didn't reach us until much later since we were out in the field. The pogues in the rear were getting those goodies.

    About every week, we'd get moved closer to the Kuwaiti border and sometimes lose a little comfort (like the outdoor showers) along the way. Not sure if the command really had plans or if they just wanted to keep us busy. Sometimes, a less experienced unit (such as a reservist unit) would take our position once we were gone. I'm sure they appreciated the well-dug trenches we left for them.

    Before we left a position, we'd sometimes gather up and burn unneeded items. This wasn't just to be tidy; it was to prevent the Iraqis from using our equipment in case the position fell into enemy hands. There are countless occurrences of the enemy using American equipment to their advantage, such as to help create booby traps. We had no desire for us or our fellow Marines to be the booby. One day, my platoon put our junk in a big hole, poured gasoline on it, and lit it on fire. We all stood around and watched as the fire just withered away. Clearly, the flame didn't make it to any of the gasoline-soaked areas. Corporal Wayne Gray from Arizona came by with a five gallon can of gas yelling, "Let a REAL woodsman get that fire started." He commenced pouring large quantities of gasoline on the trash. Looking down into the pit, I saw a small glow from an area that had been burning just a bit earlier. Before I could say anything, the gasoline touched a hot area and a big fireball emerged from the pit. Most of us, including myself, started running as far from the pit as we could. Glancing back, I saw three people left behind. They weren't hurt. The gas can had caught on fire and a flame was burning at the spout. The three remaining Marines were trying to put out the fire on the can before it exploded. One Marine tipped over the can. Not sure what he was thinking but it certainly didn't give him the desired results. It just spread gasoline (and the fire) onto the sand. Good thing sand isn't flammable. Two of the Marines were running around with the can while trying to think of some way to put out the flame. The third, and most senior Marine, calmly walked up to the can, put on the lid, and thereby extinguished the fire. Needless to say, all our trash got burnt that day.

    Cpl Gray was the driver for 5th squad. He was known as our platoon sound effects man. He kept us laughing.
    Cpl Gray with his eyes closed

    Here is Lcpl Beyea on the left and Sgt Belford on the right. Beyea is from upstate New York. He earned the nickname "Glucose" because he sometimes got hyperactive after consuming large quantities of sugar. Belford is from San Diego, California. He was sometimes referred to as "Spicolli" because his southern California accent reminded people of Sean Penn's surfer character in the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
    Beyea and Belford

    Cpl Timothy James Kirk of fifth squad is from Reno, Nevada. Before enlisting in the Marines, he served in the Army.
    Kirk with a ray of sunshine

    Here's Cpl Kirk juggling live hand grenades while smoking.
    Juggling Kirk

    Kirk still juggling. What talent!
    Side view of juggling Kirk

    From left to right are Wood, me, Garrett, and Shim. Note the reactive armor plates on the M60 tank behind us. The M1 Abrams tanks were relatively new at the time. The Army had them while many Marine tank units still used the outdated M60s.
    Posing in front of a tank
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    Before Ground Attack - Desert Storm: January 17 to February 23, 1991Open accordion icon
    Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm. We'd listen to the radio and hear about all the bombs being dropped on the Iraqis. There were 2000-pound bombs detonating all around the enemy. Based on the reports, it hardly sounded as if there would be much of an enemy left to fight. Yet, we knew people said the same thing when the beaches were being softened up by naval gunfire at Iwo Jima. It's amazing how much punishment a well fortified enemy can take. Despite how much firepower can be delivered from afar, the ground isn't taken until the infantry goes in. Only after that has the fat lady sung.

    We'd have some friendly squad brawls and if someone in our own squad got an attitude, he got dog piled. It's amazing how hard you can throw someone onto the sand without hurting them.

    One less violent form of recreation we devised was called skeeching. At least that's the name I remember. It was really more like water skiing on the sand. Our Humvees had a troop strap on the back. These were simply strong nylon straps used to keep people from falling out of the vehicle if we had to haul ass. They were connected to the vehicle by at hook at either end. We found that if you stood outside the vehicle, grabbed onto the troop strap and leaned back, once the Hummer started moving, it would pull you across the sand while you remained upright. Two people at a time could practice skeeching. The problem was if you hit a bump or other obstruction, you might lose your balance and get dragged until you let go. Fortunately, the ground was quite forgiving and you'd just end up with a mouthful of sand.

    Such antics helped my squad earn the nickname Section Eight. In reality, Section Eight was the name of a discharge resulting from "mental defects." If someone in our squad did something outlandish, he would receive the title, Section Eight of the Day. Setting the example, my squad leader earned this title quite often. One day, we were told that we were to always have on our persons: our rifle, gas mask, dog tags, boots, and floppy hat. Later, my squad leader earned the "Section Eight of the Day" title after he was spotted abiding to this rule...but wearing absolutely nothing else. The full monty!

    I don't want to make it sound as if all we did was goof off. Those are just the things I remember best. Much of the time we spent digging trenches or training. We'd rehearse moving as a battalion and practice gun drills. Driving in formation, we'd receive the signal, stop the vehicle, send out security, set up the gun, and prepare to fire...all while being timed. This would be done over and over until it could be done quickly, efficiently, and without warning. A few times, we practiced this while wearing chemical protective equipment. I learned that I can't whistle while wearing a gas mask.

    Stoves were not an issued item. They weren't really necessary but they sure did help make some of the meals ready to eat (MREs) more palatable. We had nicknames for some of the meals. Beef stew was beef spew. Chicken-a-la-king was chicken-a-la-thing. Potatoes au gratin was potatoes au rotten. I don't see how anyone ate that one cold. Each MRE, which we claimed really stood for "Meals Rejected by Ethiopians," had an accessory pack which contained tabasco sauce, salt, sugar, matches, gum, and just enough toilet paper for one wipe (we got sent more TP from loved ones). Also, every MRE came with crackers and something to put on them: cheese spread, peanut butter, or jelly. The peanut butter had a reputation for making one constipated. But we found that if you mixed several bags of cocoa powder, sugar, coffee cream, and just a tiny bit of water, you could create a syrupy concoction that seemed to get the bowels moving.

    Now getting back to the stoves. The Brits (British soldiers) sold my platoon some nice stoves. The problem was each only ran on a non-refillable fuel canister made just for that brand of stove. Not expecting the Brits to come by too often, my squad stocked up on fuel canisters. After a few weeks, the other squads ran out and mine still had some. However, unlike the supply trucks, we never saw the Brits that first sold us the fuel canisters so once we ran out, that was all she wrote.

    My squad leader got hold of a Whisperlite stove. I can't remember if he brought it with him from the states or if it got sent over. Unlike the stove the Brits had, these Whisperlites were completely civilian and had a refillable canister. It was made to run on white gas but with none available, we used "mo-gas." That was what we called the low-grade unleaded gasoline used to fuel the Humvees. The stove worked quite well for a few weeks but had to be cleaned often. White gas burns cleanly and mo-gas does not. All the soot would clog things up. Anyway, my squad leader was in his hole one night cleaning his Whisperlite while me and another guy stood firewatch. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light. The light was so bright, I first thought someone was burning donuts (mortar increment charges), until I saw my squad leader come out of his hole on fire! We quickly put him out, rushed him to get medical attention, and disposed of the stove. He lost some of his eyebrows and got his hands badly burnt but was otherwise fine. I guess those uniforms really are flame resistant. We hadn't even stepped into Kuwait and already we had one casualty. His hands were bandaged up but after a few weeks of light duty, he was fine.

    Soon, we were eating meals ready to eat (MREs) two or three times a day and occasionally getting hot chow sent to us in the mornings. We'd dig holes when we needed to take a crap. We'd wash clothes and ourselves using a washcloth, bar of soap, and a bowl of water. We called this method of cleaning ourselves "taking a bird bath." We never had much water but we always had enough.

    Everyone in the squad knew each other like family. Quoting lines from Saturday Night Live was a popular way to waste time. We must have repeated the same lines a hundred times.
          You know what I hate? When I take a, uh, um...ah...
          A 16 inch replica of the Statue of Liberty?
          Yeah, that it! And I stick it in my ear just to see how far it will go.
          Ooh, ouch! Yeah, I know just what you mean, I hate that too.

    One fellow in my squad, who we called "Shim," attended an art institute and would entertain us with "trench mime." His real name was Chris Stevenson and he was from upstate New York. Standing outside the shallow part of the trench, we'd see him walk in the trench like he was going down stairs into a very deep hole. Then he'd come back up on an escalator. At least that's what it looked like. He talented, likeable, and generally happy fellow who kept us laughing. It's always good to have people like that in your squad.
    Shim with rifle, smiling

    The days were often cool and sunny until the wind changed direction. Then we could expect rain or a sandstorm. Sandstorms were never that bad. It got you dusty but if you wore your goggles and a rag over your nose and mouth, you were fine. Sandstorms were much tougher on the equipment. Putting panty hose over the air intake of the Humvee helped keep the engine clean. Nights were getting colder, and the closer we got to the border, the more people we were instructed to have on firewatch. I remember waking up with ice on my poncho. Standing firewatch, I'd walk around with my sleeping bag around me like a cape, only to have my feet go numb from the cold.

    Although the nights were cold, they were also quite peaceful. Our squad leader taught us how to find the North Star, the Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. We could find some of the stars in Orion's Belt but thought it looked more like the "lazy W" formation of a mortar platoon.

    I mentioned that some of us took on nicknames. Most of us received a nickname that didn't quite work and then people only called you by it occasionally or infrequently. Several of us didn't like rap music so just to annoy each other, we'd try to give each other rapper names. I was Saki Fresh in Effect. Eventually it was shortened to Saki Fresh or sometimes just Fresh. In reality, nothing really annoyed us. We were pretty thick-skinned. There was one exception, however. We'd insult each other's mothers and one guy took it personally. Nobody else did. That just gave us reason to insult his mother even more. Sort of like a little brother who does something to annoy his sister. If she shows that she is annoyed, he'll just do it more; and if she acts like she doesn't care, he'll stop. Anyway, we'd harass him and he'd get angrier. Then we'd dog pile him and in the end we'd all laugh and have no hard feelings towards each other.

    We expected to find scorpions and snakes. At least that's what the training videos said. They always had a way of trying to scare you. We never saw either. We did, however, see dung beetles, camels, and occasionally, a lizard. We learned first hand (by accident) that if you pull on the tail of a frightened lizard, his tail will come off and wiggle. There were no mosquitoes. Not sure if that was true for Saudi Arabia in general or because it was winter. There was no standing water so I don't imagine they'd have any place to lay their eggs. No sand dunes, greenery, rocks, or anything to provide scenery. It was flat sand as far as the eye could see. By comparison, the Rock Quarry, which we left several weeks prior, was eye candy.

    The flatness of the terrain was unnerving during an electrical storm. The Humvees were the tallest things in the desert. I probably saw more lightning in one hour than I'd seen in all my life living in California. Perhaps it was just normal for an electrical storm and this was the first time we'd been able to see 360 degrees all the way to the horizon. If so, it's amazing more people don't get struck by lightning.

    At night, we'd see some small mice trying to get into our MREs. They were really fast and it took a few nights before anyone caught one. Turns out they were wild gerbils. We rarely saw them in the daytime.

    Eventually, the care packages sent by civilians to "any Marine" caught up with us. We really loved the letters and goodies. They were great for morale. When we got a care package with a return address, I wrote a thank you letter and got the whole squad to sign it before sending it off. We received lots of sunscreen, shaving cream, Spam, and hard candy. Since it was winter, the sun wasn't bright enough to burn. Also, we had more shaving cream than we could possibly use. Rather than let it go to waste, we decided to set a little trap. For sanitation purposes, a "piss tube" was set up in each area. Rather than have Marines urinate wherever they wanted, a PVC pipe was set in the ground at a 45 degree angle. We'd urinate in that. Well, we knew that whenever a Marine went up to the piss tube, he'd stand in a specific spot. We snuck out at night and dug a shallow hole in that particular location. We then filled it up with shaving cream and sunscreen. Then we covered it with a thin layer of sand so it would be invisible. Sneaking off into the darkness, we waited. Sure enough, a Marine walked up to the piss tube, unbuttoning his trousers. Then we heard a squish followed by an, "Oh #*@%!!!" Sure it was juvenile but when you're really bored, it doesn't take much to keep oneself amused.

    We started moving to the Kuwaiti border on January 30, 1991. As we got closer to the border, we started finding "surrender leaflets" which our planes dropped over the enemy. They were roughly 4" x 7" papers with Arabic writing and cartoons of Saddam Hussein or Iraqi soldiers. Each had instructions on how to surrender and promised humane treatment for those who did. From what we heard, they were quite effective. After several days of bombing by the U.S. and its allies, several disgruntled Iraqi soldiers just gave up. From what I heard, they were treated well and provided valuable intelligence. The surrender leaflets became a source of entertainment. We'd go looking for them, collect them, and trade them like baseball cards.

    We received plenty of training in case of a gas attack. Though not comfortable, we knew we could function, if necessary, in a chemical environment. One day we were alerted to a Scud missile attack. We grabbed our gas masks and hid in a covered part of the trench until we were told to stand down. The Scud never came but we were as prepared as we could have been if it had hit.

    In my opinion, our first feeling of combat was when Iraqi tanks broke through our front lines. Our firewatch, Shim, started yelling, "Stand to, stand to!" Instantly, we went from a dead sleep to sprint mode. They were still a good ways off but if the tanks weren't neutralized, we could be in trouble. We packed things up and assembled with the rest of the platoon. As silly as it may seem, no ammunition had been distributed. I guess the higher-ups didn't think we were close enough to be in danger or that accidental discharges from our own troops were a greater threat. Regardless, this was all about to change. We began breaking open and distributing mortar ammunition. Each Humvee got around 80 rounds. Most people broke open the metal bindings on the ammo boxes by kicking them; this almost always required multiple kicks. Fortunately, I carried emergency medical team (EMT) scissors which were much faster. My squad was the first to finish so we commenced to helping the rest of the platoon until we were told to stand down. The A-10 Warthogs took out the tanks with their big gun. While we never saw or engaged the enemy at point, the feeling was as if we did. We were pumped and ready to move. After the adrenalin wore off, we realized we had lost all concept of time and temperature. What we thought was only 30 minutes was really closer to 90 minutes. Also, we were running around in t-shirts despite the fact that the temperature was very cold. Our squad leader was pleased with how we responded.

    Threats of nerve gas and Anthrax attacks led the command to require our unit to take pills which would supposedly give some protection from an attack by either. Some Marines developed temporary stomach discomfort which they attributed to ingesting these pills. Some of us took all the pills we were instructed to take over a few weeks in February. Some took very few, if any. I think I was somewhere in between. Many of us were skeptical as to the safety of the pills but in the end, most of us felt the risk of chemical or biological attack outweighed the risk from taking the pills.

    We did what we could to stay motivated. For me, and much of my squad, listening to hard rock music kept our spirits up. Guns 'n' Roses, AC/DC, Skid Row, Metallica, and Megadeth were some of my personal favorites. I got to be pretty good on the air guitar. As I listened to "Welcome to the Jungle," I thought how our jungle was a desert and that we were far from welcome. The Saudis didn't like us being there but our presence was better than having the Iraqis conquer their land and take their oil.

    My squad began associating the characters of movie "Young Guns 2" with ourselves. Some of the personalities seemed to fit. My squad leader was like the cowboy played by Emilio Estevez; a bold, daring, extroverted leader. I was more like the Native American played by Lou Diamond Phillips; the more reserved partner-in-crime. The theme song to the movie, Jon Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory," became our unofficial theme song:
          Each night I go to bed
          I pray the Lord my soul to keep
          No I ain't looking for forgiveness
          But before I'm six foot deep
          Lord, I got to ask a favor
          And hope you'll understand
          'Cause I've lived life to the fullest
          Let this boy die like a man
          Staring down a bullet
          Let me make my final stand

    We moved close to the Kuwaiti border. We could now see the oil wells burning. Still hadn't seen the enemy but we remained extra cautious at night.

    Planes continued dropping bombs on the enemy. Though we were never close enough to see the explosions, we could sometimes feel them. I remember one day I was lying in my hole and could feel individual shock waves pass through the area. It was a very low frequency sound with pulses that passed through about every half to one second for about 15 seconds. It was a very strange feeling.

    All the squad leaders got called over to meet with the platoon commander for a briefing describing our role in the attack. Ours came back, made a map in the sand, and went over the plan. As it turned out, he knew the battle plans even before our platoon commander. The battalion commander's driver was a good friend of our squad leader and told him what was going to happen well in advance.

    On February 23, we assembled for the ground attack near the Kuwaiti border. Smoke from the oil wells crept in from the Kuwaiti side, blackening the sky, and dropping the temperature. In a way, this was good since we had to wear our mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) suits to protect from chemical attacks. In cold weather, these suits were comfortable. God help the poor fellow who has to wear them in the heat.

    My most memorable and favorite photo of the war is the cover photo, taken on this day.

    The MOPP suits were thick, warm, and charcoal lined. Hence, they left everything underneath filthy. They were also woodland camouflage. Not a tree in sight and we're issued woodland camouflage MOPP suits! So much for camouflaging my rifle and trying to be fashionable.

    Someone's Humvee got stuck in one of our platoon's trenches...not my trench or Humvee.
    Humvee stuck in trench with Marines looking on

    Sometimes after getting our trenches just perfect, I would draw hieroglyphics to depict the story of our squad. This story depicts Wood being taken from the platoon (temporarily) to serve on mess duty.
    Stick figures carved in sand

    Here are hummers (Humvees) in tactical formation. I don't remember if this photo or the next was taken during a training exercise or the real thing.
    Humvees in the desert

    A big gun on the go.
    Truck towing artillery

    Amphibious tractored vehicles (amtracs) can be used for transporting troops on land or in the water. They resemble the Jawa vehicle in the movie "Star Wars." While my squad was vulnerable to small arms fire and shrapnel due to our lack of armor, we were told that our Humvee would not likely be heavy enough to set off anti-tank mines. Not so for amtracs.
    Rear of two amtracs

    Amtrac in waiting.
    Amtrac with driver on top

    Sometimes vehicle pits were dug by bulldozers to protect the Humvees prior to the ground attack. This sure beats digging in by hand.
    Bulldozer digging a vehicle pit

    Beyea and Garrett in the back of the Humvee.
    Two Marines from my squad in the Humvee

    M60 tank during training exercise in Saudi Arabia. Notice "Old Glory" on the back.
    Side view of M60 tank

    Here's me snapping in (dry fire).
    Me in the shooting prone position

    From left to right: Garrett (in sunglasses), me, Doc (not looking happy), Beyea, Shim (also in sunglasses), and Wood. Like my suspenders? February 1991.
    Group photo at the back of the Humvee

    Saddam's troops set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells. I suppose he figured that if he couldn't have them, then nobody would. This produced a significant amount of smoke that blackened the sky, dropped temperatures, and made living in Kuwait as unhealthy as smoking several packs of cigarettes per day. February 1991.
    Oilwells on fire

    After spending several weeks out in the field without ammunition, we were finally permitted to draw some. From left to right are Garrett, Shim, Beyea, Doc, Webber, and Kirk (in background). Strapped to Beyea's back is a rocket launcher.
    Gathering munitions

    Shim giving us the "don't look at this" sign. Where did Mike get those bottles of Jim Beam from?
    Group shot at the back of the Humvee

    Who says there is no alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
    Some of my squad holding bottles of whiskey

    From left to right: Webber (smoking), Doc (angry), Mike (serious), Shim (happy), Garrett (goofy), and me. Almost every day in the field was sleeveless shirt day. We cut the sleeves off our t-shirts. If nothing else, it looked cool and gave us more rifle cleaning rags.
    Group photo at the back of the Humvee
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    Ground Attack - Desert Storm: February 24 to February 28, 1991Open accordion icon
    Here are the highlights:
  • Ground war begins: February 24, 1991 at 0430.
  • 2/2 spearheads the Sixth Marines attack into Kuwait through the minefields.
  • Shot at by mortars: February 24, 1991.
  • Shot at by artillery: February 24, 1991.
  • Move to Al Abdaliyah: February 25, 1991.
  • Shot at by tanks: February 25, 1991.
  • Iraqi platoon surrenders to our 81's platoon: February 26, 1991.
  • Bunkers cleared by 81's platoon: February 26, 1991
  • Soviet made Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty (BMP) armored vehicle destroyed by Lance Corporal George Garrett of 81's platoon: February 26, 1991.
  • Move to Al Jahra: February 26, 1991.
  • Occupation of Kuwait: February 27, 1991.
  • Ceasefire declared 100 hours after ground offensive begins: February 28, 1991.

  • For us, the ground war began on February 24, 1991 at 0430. That was the first day of the ground war phase of Operation Desert Storm. Line charges were sent across the minefields to detonate the mines. I never actually saw a line charge but based on their description, they must have been a chain or wire with explosives that were fired across the minefield then detonated. I'd never heard anything so loud when they went off. Armored bulldozers would then create a path so vehicles could be driven through the minefield. Passing through, we saw mines all around. The small anti-personnel mines looked like disc shaped air fresheners and the anti-tank mines looked like Tupperware.

    My battalion, 2/2, spearheaded the attack into Kuwait through the minefields, leading the Sixth Marines. Nine battalions in a tic-tac-toe formation attacked in our Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). We were front and center.

    According to "Overwhelming Force Leads to Swift Victory in the Gulf War" by Robert Randall Ryder which appeared in the January 2021 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) magazine,
    The two phases of the Gulf War...involved nearly 700,000 American troops deployed to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region.

    Our MEF comprised 92,990 of those troops, according to Marine Corps University - Selected Persian Gulf War Chronology August 1990 - June 1991. Why were so many troops needed for what, in retrospect, seemed like a cake walk? In my VFW source, U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of coalition forces during the war, said
    In order to attack a position that is heavily dug-in and barricaded, such as the one we had here, you should have a ratio of five to one in the way of troops in favor of the attacker. We were outnumbered three to two as far as troops were concerned, and we had to come up with a way to make up that difference.

    "Overwhelming Force Leads to Swift Victory in the Gulf War" also mentioned
    That difference would be made up through deception, mobility, technology, superior leadership and overwhelming air superiority. Schwarzkopf's plan was a simple but brilliant one: make the Iraqis think the coalition's attack would come along the Kuwaiti shoreline from a U.S. Marines-led amphibious assault, as well as from Kuwait's southern border with Saudi Arabia. While Iraqi forces were preparing for battle at these two locations, coalition forces would conduct a large flanking move west of Kuwait where Iraqi forces would be minimal.

    At the time, Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world. Many of them were battle-hardened from years of fighting with Iran. So they were not a force to be taken lightly.

    After crossing through the mine fields, we were shot at by mortars and artillery. That sucked but it was still better than Sea Duty (well...maybe not). Fortunately, there were no casualties in my platoon. We were near enough to see some close fighting up front, including tank versus tank battles, but we were too far back to effectively engage the enemy.

    On February 25, we moved to Al Abdaliyah. Our operations chief led us in, at least part of the way. He was a Vietnam Veteran who served with the famous Walking Dead. There were quite a few stories about his unit, and based on his personality, we figured most of them were probably true.

    The smoke from the oil wells completely blackened out the night sky. We couldn't even see our hand in front of our own face. With no starlight to amplify, the night vision equipment was useless. Being the leftmost gun, our job was to ensure the other guns were properly aligned so all would shoot parallel. Our squad leader shined a red lens flashlight through our gun sight while we talked to the other squads via radio. They aimed in on our sight and made adjustments, one-by-one. We were almost finished when an Iraqi tank began shooting. It sounded very close, though I suppose at night, everything sounds a little closer. Just a few more seconds...done. Our lights were off and the platoon was set up to fire if needed. The tank got off about three shots but failed to hit anything. He stopped shooting. Maybe he figured we moved and that by continuing to shoot, he would just make himself more vulnerable to counterattack. I wasn't about to question his reason for stopping. We were armed with M60 machine guns, squad automatic weapons, grenade launchers, some M72 LAW rockets, and about 640 81mm mortar rounds, but nothing to stop a tank. We were lucky the enemy tank stopped when he did. I remember that night well though others in my platoon remember it differently, years later. My squad leader says it stopped shooting because an A-10 took it out. Another fellow in my platoon said, "What tank?"

    That night, we dug in and remained at 50% alert. My squad leader led one watch and I led the other. Before dawn, we were all up and ready for a confrontation. As the sun rose, we saw that there was an enemy bunker only about 50 meters from our vehicle. To one side of our platoon, covering about 180 degrees, were an assortment of other Iraqi bunkers. There was also a large semi-truck, still running, and a Soviet made BMP (armored vehicle). The BMP was about 200 meters from our position.

    A few minutes later, we saw a line of Iraqis walking towards us with their hands in the air. All were unarmed. I'm guessing there were about 20-30 of them. We stopped them about 75 meters from our vehicles, put them on the ground, searched them, and tied them up. From what I heard, they were just unlucky men that were snatched up in Iraq, given a rifle with very little training, then were told to defend their position. They had no desire to fight. I was also told that they wanted to find out who we were before they surrendered. They didn't want to give up to Israelis.

    My platoon then commenced to blowing up the bunkers. While a Marine guarded the entrance, someone else yelled for anyone to come out. If nobody came out, a grenade was thrown in. After the explosion, the bunker was searched. No Iraqis chose to remain in the bunkers.

    The semi truck looked suspicious since its engine was left running. It was blown up. We suspected any abandoned vehicles to be booby trapped. A LAW rocket was shot at the BMP but it just bounced off without detonating. Did I mention these rockets were left over from the Vietnam War? Our M60 machine gunner started shooting at the BMP and he caught something on fire. Yeah, I know a mortar platoon doesn't normally have an M60 machine gunner but with 80+ people in the platoon, we could afford to have one guy in the squad with an M60. Anyway, the fire got bigger and there were some small explosions. Then the explosions got bigger. Pieces of metal were being thrown off the BMP. People started taking cover. Finally, there was one big explosion and large chunks of smoking metal were thrown as far as 600 feet away. Still, no casualties in the platoon. Whew!

    We passed our prisoners onto another unit and moved onto Al Jahra.

    We often had the opportunity to watch far off tank battles while waiting to move forward. Front and center is Doc Mett. He was one of two Navy Corpsmen attached to our platoon. He earned the nickname "Loogie" because he was so often congested. This is one of the few photos (perhaps the only one?) of Doc smiling...probably because something is getting blown up. February 1991.
    Marines in green chemical protective suits on a Humvee

    Much of the attack involved moving and waiting. What better place to catch a view of the action than in the back of a Humvee? While we had desert camouflage uniforms, we only had green woodland camouflage Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) chemical suits. Notice the rocket launchers duct taped to the top of the Humvee. Shown smiling is our good friend Shim. February 1991.
    Marines huddled together, standing on a Humvee

    We removed our windshields to prevent broken glass from flying around in case our Humvee was hit. Sandbags were placed up front to limit our exposure. Intravenous (IV) bags were duct taped to the top of the inside of the Humvee. As assistant driver, I maintained radio communication with the command and helped my squad leader light his cigarettes while he drove. February 1991.
    Me holding a rifle while sitting in the front passenger seat in our Humvee

    Iraqi bunkers were made with fairly good overhead cover. They were flush with the ground so it was often impossible to see them until very close. February 1991.
    Inside of an Iraqi bunker

    What appeared to be a platoon of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to us without a fight. We then set to clearing their bunkers. Various items were found in these bunkers including photographs of planes. From left to right are Wood, Belford, and Shim. February 1991.
    My squad holding things found in a bunker

    This is stuff from an Iraqi bunker. February 1991.
    Things placed just outside of an Iraqi bunker

    A Soviet-made Iraqi BMP armored vehicle was found and destroyed. At first our platoon shot it with a rocket that did not detonate. Then Garrett shot it with an M60 machine gun which caught something on fire (the gas tank perhaps?). Apparently, there were a good deal of explosives stored inside the vehicle because it exploded several times, often throwing large chunks of shrapnel far away. February 1991.
    Me standing by the remains of a blown-up BMP

    It was common for the Iraqi soldiers to surrender. Many had poor training and bad morale. After being checked for weapons, they were marched to a holding area.
    Iraqi prisoners on the move

    Our final location during the ground attack was near a junkyard. Here we see Garrett digging a pit for his M60 machine gun which he used to cover a road that passed by the junkyard. Garrett is from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He earned the nickname "Slug" because he was a little heavy for a Marine and slept a good bit. But he was a great guy and we all liked him.
    Garrett in his machine gun pit

    We saw lots of destroyed vehicles and buildings lying in ruins. February or March 1991.
    Things in ruins burning

    I remember passing quite a few destroyed small buildings. We saw a cow walk by one of them, apparently unharmed. We started mooing at it but got no reply.

    On February 27, we passed through a junkyard. With so many things for the enemy to hide behind, we were very cautious but had no confrontations. We ended up setting up about a quarter of a mile outside the junkyard, across a road. Later, we saw a small civilian truck with two men leave the junkyard. They were dressed in civilian clothes and appeared unarmed. We weren't given permission to shoot and they made no hostile action towards us; they just drove off. We joked about them over the next several days calling them "Sanford and Son" while humming the theme song.

    One hundred hours after the ground attack commenced, a cease fire was called. We weren't so sure anyone told the Iraqis about the cease fire so we continued to remain vigilant for awhile. After all, some of the Japanese soldiers were never told WWII was over and kept defending their positions for years.
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    Post-Desert Storm, Part One: February 29 to March 28, 1991Open accordion icon
    The ground attack was short and intense. But as quickly as it started, it was over after only 100 hours. Not that I minded.

    Here are some of the highlights after the cease-fire:
  • Many Marines were vomiting from what the command claimed was an overchlorination of the drinking water. The situation was apparently solved by switching to bottled drinking water. This occurred between March 1, 1991 and March 28, 1991.
  • 2/2 takes supposedly stray incoming rounds (small arms fire) at a few random incidents after our own ammunition is taken away. This happened at various times between March 1, 1991 and March 28, 1991.
  • Mysterious lights in the sky were seen. These were yellow stripes of light appearing to come from clouds or oil smoke. The appearance of these lights would remain unchanged for about three hours. This was seen during various nights between March 1, 1991 and March 27, 1991.

  • We were told that vehicles that bore the crescent moon symbol were medical vehicles. The symbol was the equivalent of our red cross. Here we have Kirk looking inside one such vehicle.
    Side view of armored medical vehicle

    Here's me posing with the same vehicle shown in the previous photo.
    Front view of armored medical vehicle with me on it

    This is Beyea walking by an M252 81mm mortar. Though this was our primary weapon, I think only one or two rounds were shot by our entire platoon during the war and these were shot just to set the baseplate and get a frame of reference. Though there are situations where mortars are particularly effective, the desert is not one of them.
    Mortar, Humvee, and Marines

    Here's a destroyed BMP armored vehicle in Kuwait.
    Blown up BMP

    This is the inside of the armored vehicle shown in the previous picture.
    Inside of burnt up armored vehicle

    We searched a garbage truck in Kuwait. Inside we found an enemy mortar.
    Contents of garbage truck

    We passed through/by a few towns but never actually set foot in any. Here in the distance is Jarah, Kuwait. March 1991.
    Jarah in the distance

    This is me on a captured tank in Kuwait.
    Me atop an Iraqi tank

    Here's Belford (left) and Beyea (right) getting chow. We received numerous care packages, both from strangers and friends. Eighth squad received more than our share of gedunk (pogey bait) since we had so many married Marines. We used various Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) boxes to sort food into categories such as hard candy and gum, canned meat, etc. Everyone put their gedunk into these "Communist Boxes" since no one person owned anything in them. Their contents were available to all. The rule when selecting MREs was that you had to randomly select a meal without looking for the best entree. Anything else was called "Rat F**king" and was strictly forbidden in our squad.
    Belford and Beyea looking through MRE boxes

    Numerous enemy weapons were found. In this photo are the Dragunov sniper rifle (top two) and the AK-47 (bottom). March 1991.
    Enemy weapons

    Here are more weapons which include a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher (top), an AK machine gun (middle), and an AK-47 (bottom). These weapons had seen better days.
    More enemy weapons

    Following the cease-fire, our platoon kept busy with various engineering projects using supplies from the junkyard. I created a small windmill weatherstation. When the wind blows, the garbage bag behind catches the air and turns the windmill to face the wind. Tiles on the ground enable one to determine the direction from which the wind is blowing. When the wind changed direction, we could be assured that there would be a sandstorm or rain. March 1991.
    A weatherstation that I made

    I created this seven-foot-tall sundial. Bricks were used to mark the time of the day. Near the top is a sign that displays the current date, March 24, 1991. It could be used to estimate the time to within 15 minutes.
    Sundial that I made

    Eighth squad found some cinder blocks, wood, and a homemade weighted barbell. We used this to make a bench press.
    Our makeshift gym

    Facing the camera and behind the Humvee is Wood brushing his teeth on a smoky day.
    Messy Humvee loaded with gear and Marines around it

    Every squad has to have its victory photo. This picture (not my squad) was taken from our 2/2 Gulf War book.
    Black and white squad photo

    Here is yet another victory snapshot from the other end of the gun line. Photo taken from our 2/2 Gulf War book.
    Another black and white photo of several Marines

    Wood was nicknamed "Bocephus" because of his Alabama accent. We rarely called him Bocephus...probably because Wood was much easier to say. I believe he was from the Harper Valley area.
    Wood smoking a cigarette
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    Post-Desert Storm, Part Two: February 29 to March 28, 1991Open accordion icon
    Once the command started feeling safe, they let us build fires at night. This changed everything. Before, the cold weather was the worst thing about the environment. That winter in Kuwait often brought temperatures below freezing. There were mornings where I would wake up with ice on my poncho. Being able to build fires after the cease-fire greatly boosted morale. Some of us kept wearing the filthy charcoal-lined chemical protective suits to keep warm. From left to right: Wood, Belford, Shim, Doc Mett (hand in air), Garrett, Beyea, and Gray.
    Marines gathered around the fire

    Here's my guys sitting around the campfire. From left to right are Beyea, Garrett, Belford, and Kirk (in the shadows). March 1991.
    Sitting around the fire

    One night, we stood around the fire and made some small torches; I don't remember why. I then got a big stick, wrapped some oily rags around one end, and lit it on fire. It was a torch worthy of being a prop on "Land of the Lost." I started prancing up and down the gun line with it while my squad hummed the theme from "Chariots of Fire." Guys from other squads ran out and we passed the torch from one person to another as if we were delivering the Olympic torch in Athens. I earned my "Section Eight of the Day" that night.

    With the fighting over, we no longer needed to live in trenches, and being set up near a junkyard meant we could find things to keep us amused. It was also raided for things that would add to the comforts of home. Some guys brought back headlights and hooked up the big PRC-77 batteries to them to provide illumination at night. Another guy brought back copper and other metal wires to throw into the fire so it would burn with different colors. One guy even brought back and got running an old dune buggy.

    The seventh squad "Hobos" made a sign that read "Hobo Hilton, no vacancy." They kept an enemy mortar lying around as a souvenir.
    Seventh squad

    This is Lcpl Bill Pecor of seventh squad looking back. He ended up making the Marine Corps a career. Photo taken from 2/2 Gulf War book.
    Seventh squad with enemy mortar

    We would stay up at night, gathered around the fire, playing Yahtzee, heating up Spam, and singing songs. I think the only non-Christmas song we all knew the lyrics to was Kenny Rodger's "The Gambler"..., and of course, the Marines Hymn.

    In March, many Marines were vomiting from what the command claimed was an over chlorination of the drinking water. It wasn't severe but still a little disturbing. The water never bothered me. The situation was apparently solved by switching to bottled drinking water.

    We saw a couple of Arabian horses running around. We were never able to get close to them. Some donkeys and a burro came by and wandered from squad to squad. They were obviously tame and were well fed by the Marines who made them their unofficial squad mascot. Here's Shim (left) and Wood (right) with a new friend.
    Shim and Wood guiding a donkey

    Our platoon took "supposedly" stray incoming rounds (small arms fire) at a few random incidents. Nobody was hurt and it was later concluded that the shots were celebratory fire. The Kuwaitis like to express their delight by spraying bullets into the air, oblivious to the fact that they must land somewhere. We'd often see tracer rounds lighting up the sky in the distance. I wondered if they yelled, "Yee-haw" when doing this.

    For a few nights, mysterious lights were seen in the sky. There were yellow stripes of light appearing to come from clouds or oil smoke whose appearance would remain unchanged for about three hours. We never figured out what they were.

    On March 28, we moved back to Al Jubail, Camp 15 (Tent City). The smoke from the oil wells make the trip very cold. Not having a windshield didn't help either. We took it out so we wouldn't have broken glass flying around if it got shot. I think the windshield ended up getting broken in storage. My squad leader drove and I sat in the passenger seat. The rest of the squad sat in the back. My squad leader wanted a smoke and couldn't get his cigarette lit with all the wind blowing in from where our windshield used to be. Nor could he stop since he had to keep up with the convoy. He handed his Marlboro red to me and I ducked down low in the Humvee, away from the wind. It took a few tries but I managed to get it lit. Coughing my lungs out, I handed him the lit cigarette and he continued driving, though now a much happier man.

    This is eighth squad. From left to right: Shim, Belford (front), Webber, Garrett, Me (front), and Beyea. Where are Doc and Wood?
    Not quite complete squad photo

    Here I am posing with a retractable stock AK-47.
    Me with shouldered AK-47

    Joseph "Z-man" Zimmerman of Pennsylvania was my good friend from Sea Duty. He served in a 2/2 line company. Here, he stands next to a captured Iraqi anti-aircraft gun. March 1991.
    Zimmerman with captured anti-aircraft gun

    Maloney was in the heavy machine gun platoon in our company (aka "heavy girls). Here he is with some really big guns. March 1991.
    Maloney flanked by what look like recoilless rifles

    Anti-aircraft gun. Notice that one of the flash suppressors is missing. I know who took it. March 1991.
    Marine seated at quad anti-aircraft gun

    2/2...we just had to leave our mark on something. March 1991.
    Iraqi BMP with our unit name spray painted on it

    A casualty of war. Notice the molten metal near the top of the photo. March 1991.
    Burnt corpse with broken rifle

    Lcpl Taylor was a forward observer who later went on to graduate top in his class in sniper school. March 1991.
    Taylor holding AK-47 with bayonet
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    Back at Camp 15: March 28 to April 10, 1991Open accordion icon
    Back at Tent City, we had showers, hot chow, latrines, and cots. Ironically, we were happier at the junkyard. After three months in the field, we had to get back into garrison mode. Our uniform had to look proper, our gear had to be clean, and we had to act appropriately. No more walking around in t-shirts with the sleeves cut off or starting wrestling matches at the drop of a hat. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

    Remember the small amount of cash we received every two weeks while we were out in the field? Remember how there was little to spend it on? That all changed back at Tent City. Gambling was rampant. In my platoon, I played nickel ante poker games with friends but I heard stories of thousand dollar winnings in other parts of the camp.

    There was a little rest-and-recreation spot we got bused to a couple of times. I don't remember what it was called but I remember it had a swimming pool and an area with lots of weight lifting equipment. On every piece of equipment was written, "Donated by Arnold Schwarzeneggar." Civilian support was great for morale. It was such a contrast to the attitudes against those who fought in the Vietnam War. Based on news reports, it seemed most of America was in favor of our war or at least were in favor of supporting the troops.

    General Al Gray came by with Sergeant Major David Sommers while we stood in formation. General Gray was the Commandant and Sergeant Major Sommers was the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps at the time. They asked who was the youngest Marine in our platoon. An 18 year old New Yorker raised his hand and was then given a personalized Marine Corps coin. That really made his day. The General and Sergeant Major said a few encouraging words then were off to visit another part of the camp.

    In early March, the weather was pretty nice. Then in April, it got very hot. At night, the wind would blow over tables and shake the big squad tents like a rabid gorilla on steroids shaking a rag doll. We left just a few days after it started getting really hot.

    Here's Lcpl Jeffrey "PQ" Paquin blowing a bubble. April 1991.
    PQ blowing a huge bubble
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    Homeward Bound: April 11, 1991Open accordion icon
    We flew out of Saudi Arabia in 747s on April 11, stopping in Shannon, Ireland to refuel. The battalion Sergeant Major said we could leave the plane, but we had to stay in the terminal and couldn't drink alcohol. He was booed. Then he said we could each have one drink. The plane burst into cheer. Did I say that Marines can't count very well? I was still a non-drinker at that point so I remembered things with a sober memory. The trip from Ireland to New York City was the most jubilant environment I've ever witnessed. It was like we won the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the stewardesses received lots of attention but they seemed to enjoy it. After NYC, we made our way to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, then back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The festive mood continued for several days.

    Unfortunately, by the time the below photo was taken, many of those who participated in the war had already been discharged from their extended tours. Notice some of the guys up front gesturing the "don't look at this" signal. In 2022, some people associated that hand gesture with racism, but back then, it was just harmless fun. Photo taken from 2/2 Gulf War book.
    Platoon photo

    There were no casualties in my platoon through there were a few in my battalion; nobody I knew personally. Several years later, I heard from a Marine Colonel that 2/2 was the first to take casualties in the ground assault. Looking back, in some ways it seems like yesterday, and in other ways, it was a lifetime ago. I feel honored to have served my country and blessed to have returned in one piece. I only wish this same blessing for the troops currently deployed overseas.
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    My 81mm mortar platoon has tried to have a reunion and were somewhat successful at a very small level. A few of us got together in 2009.

    Me and the rest of Eighth Squad at the Rock Quarry, January 1991
    Eighth Squad at Rock Quarry, January 1991