Little things mean the most

by Steve Thomas

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the single biggest butt kicking in the history of the world.

I'm speaking, of course, of the shellacking the U.S.-led coalition gave to the fourth largest army in the world.

On Jan. 16, 1990, Desert Storm began with a stealth fighter taking off from a secret base in Saudi Arabia. Just 41 days later, Americans were beginning to plan the welcome-home parades for the Desert Storm troops.

Most people remember the war through the eyes of a CNN cameraman. However, I had the honor and privilege of serving in the Gulf. Here's the war as I remember it:

I remember the SCUD attacks. I hated having to put the stupid gas mask on every time the damn siren went off. But if you didn't have the mask on -- well, I didn't want to contemplate the results of that possibility.

I remember the heat. Hotter and more miserable than Houston in the summer. (I know many of you won't believe that.)

And I remember how I couldn't wait for the war to start. Then, once it did start, I couldn't wait for it to end so I could go home.

The thing I remember most, however, are the letters and packages I received. They were definitely a godsend.

I received 31 letters from my nephew's sixth-grade class from Texas City. This was not a homework assignment, the teacher wrote; the class just wanted to write to you. The letters brought tears to my eyes.

I also remember the goofy things we did. After all, you can only keep the American spirit down for so long.

For instance, we built a golf course. Of course, it was one huge sand trap, but it was a golf course, nonetheless. We just had to keep a sharp eye out for the snakes.

We also made day trips into town to go to Dairy Queen. Let me tell you, it was great to come in out of the 115 degree heat and enjoy a dipped cone.

Then, there was the Happy Family store, Saudi Arabia's version of a five-and-dime. We would go there because my best friend swore that Elvis worked there. I never saw him.

I must clarify something here. My experience in Saudi Arabia was by no means typical. It was very much the opposite.

I spent my entire time there in a naval aviation unit. I went in, flew my mission and came home. For me, the actual war was something I rarely dealt with. I was lucky.

I doubt that many of the soldiers out in the field got to go into town to go to the Happy Family or the Dairy Queen.

Many of those guys were stuck out in the deep desert far away from any town. I am sure their impressions are markedly different from my own.

I have purposely tried not to dwell on all the things that make war horrible. I don't think I want to remember some things and, thankfully, I have forgotten others.

But not forgotten are the 131 friends and loved-ones we lost in the desert. Every war has its cost in human life and suffering.

Thomas is a junior journalism major who rambles too much.

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