Twenty Years Gone: Iraq

I was 11 years old when US forces bombed Baghdad on a Wednesday night in January, 1991. I was actually watching A Different World (preceded by The Cosby Show) in a different part of the house when my dad called me to the living room.

“You have to watch this. This is history in the making.”

Well, sorta.

It did officially kick off the first Iraq war–officially known as Operation Desert Storm.

Incidentally, the second Iraq war was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Given the outcomes, perhaps each should have had the other’s name.

But I digress.

I’m not sure how many people remember Desert Storm–and some days I wonder if it’s my generation’s Korea. But I remember it clearly. Of course, I was born and raised in Fayetteville. You couldn’t help but take notice. The 82nd had deployed, among other units, and Fayetteville, Ft. Bragg and Pope were virtual ghost towns. (The upside was that on payday weekend, you could actually get a table at a restaurant after a reasonable wait.) I remember our church stepping up to provide help to families who had soldiers deployed. My parents and I baby-sat for one family with three young children. We gave the mom–who was functioning as a single mom with a deployed husband–a night off. It was also the first time I can remember holding an infant.

Her name was Caitlin.

I remember the threat con on post being stuck on Charlie for what seemed like ages (Charlie on a scale of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, F—ed). The schools were prepared to function as hospitals in the event there were mass casualties. My dad even mentioned that if this thing got out of hand, he might be called back into service.

I remember talking about it with my peers at lunch (keep in mind I was in the 5th grade) and declaring a month ahead of time that we were going to war. And crying a little because of it.

It was a time of uncertainty for my little corner of the world. We had no idea what was going to happen or how big this thing would get.

Turns out, we didn’t have that much to worry about. Iraqi soldiers were surrendering to CNN reporters. Needless to say, we accomplished our military goals quickly. It didn’t seem to help the families in my area, though, as they continued to celebrate Christmases separated from family because the deployments kept coming.

Fast forward 10 years. Another President Bush. Another discussion about whether to invade Iraq. Only this time, it was rather unfounded, don’t you think? But Li’l Bush felt the need to finish what his father started–even though his father completed his goal. And this is the danger in not knowing, learning or remembering one’s history…or not doing so well enough to know we didn’t need to get in the middle of that.

Because 20 years after the first invasion of Iraq, we’re still kickin’ it in the same sand box.


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