What do Marines do when there is no war? We train, constantly. We train in the morning, we train in the evening, and we train at night. We train during the hottest days, we train during the coldest days, and we train during the wettest days. Marines are trained to always be prepared.
War was upon us and we were training even more and harder than ever before. We hit the obstacle courses. We hit the roads. We hit the beaches. We climbed, jumped, crawled, and swam all day every day. In a letter I wrote home dated 12-11-90 at 6:57 PM, "we're exercising every day...I don't get much time to write or call everyone. For the next two weeks we will be working seven days a week."
While I was writing this letter, I was waiting in line to make a couple of phone calls, trying to "kill two birds with one stone" as I put it in my letter. One of those calls was to my best friend, Chris. He was getting married soon and I was originally going to be the Best Man. But that didn't work out for us. In my letter I wrote, "Chris said that he and Marlene moved the date up again. Now it'll be sometime in February." I hated having to miss the wedding. I felt like I was missing out on a lot of things. But I couldn't focus on those things right now. We had better be focused on doing our jobs to the best of our ability.
News from the Gulf
We don't get a lot of news about what's happening in the Gulf. They want us focused on being prepared for what is going to happen when we get there. But every now and then we get some news about the latest in the Gulf. Yesterday, Saddam let several British hostages go. He had British and American hostages over there for months. He claimed he was just keeping them safe in case war broke out. The coward was really using them as human shields.
The news headlines read "Iraq frees British hostages." I've included a picture I found of a young boy standing next to Saddam on national TV. Saddam was trying to convince the world that the hostages were guest and being taken care of. This boy would become the poster child of Saddam's propaganda. I guess he finally realized that we weren't buying it. We were coming after him no matter what and he was better off letting them go than trying to protect them. There were many more still there.
I'm including a personal story by one of the hostages as he recalls the day they were flown out of Iraq.
"I Was There"
I'd been in Iraq as a human shield "guest" since early September. We were waiting at the Melia Mansour hotel, having been bussed in from the hydroelectric plant the day before. The night before the British liaison team, soldiers that had been in Kuwait pre-invasion, held a small concert in the bar in front of a 50+ crowd of very drunken former "guests".
Some of us had hard cash to buy some beers, most made do with a home brewed hooch, some kind of distilled spirit that the army must teach. We went out on 11 December, I think.
I was the first person to step off the Iraqi Airways charter to Gatwick. I couldn't stop myself crying as I reached the bottom of the steps to the aircraft. I was 24, and have since enjoyed the time to build a successful career. Most others were in their 40s and 50s. Many have since been unable to pick up after almost five months, a traumatic time and a nasty recession. Barry Manners, Dorset
The Source of My Strength
By the end of September, there were already about 200,000 American troops in Saudi Arabia conducting Operation Desert Shield. It was enough to repel any Iraqi attack. The initial plan to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait called for a direct offensive aimed at Kuwait City; but Schwarzkopf and other American commanders thought that the risk was too great against heavily armed, well-entrenched defenders. Instead, they had called for additional troops to prepare for a much larger military campaign.
I was among those getting ready to head over there. I kept thinking, what are we doing here? Why aren't we heading over there now? We're ready and willing. But you don't just move 140,000 Marines and soldiers by giving the order. Most of us flew commercial airlines and it must have caused a scheduling nightmare.
In the meantime, we continue training and strengthening ourselves. But I knew the source of my strength. It wasn't The weapons we had. It wasn't the physical strength. It wasn't the military masterminds. Those were undeniably the best the world had to offer. But I put my confidence in something greater.
My faith in God, my support from friends and family, and the military strength combined is what boosted my confidence. In the same letter home that I mentioned earlier I explained my source of strength. "Keep writing and praying, for this is my strength (or part of it. God is really my strength)."
"God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places."