Five years ago this week I was sitting in Ft. Bragg, N.C., wondering if the war would start before the Pentagon shipped me and my comrades to Kuwait to join the rest of the invasion force. My presence in Kuwait was not necessary for the successful initiation of the invasion but I wanted to be there anyway. For six months I had known that I would play a small part in history and this knowledge had consumed my life, almost to the exclusion of everything else.
I was one of thousands of civil affairs reservists that the Army had mobilized and assembled in Ft. Bragg in the middle of February. Before that, I had been living in Norristown, Pennsylvania helping to prepare the unit to go to war. I had been preparing for this moment for almost thirty years - a time when I could use the expensive training that the Army had invested in me.
When I flew back to Norristown after visiting my family over Thanksgiving I wasn't sure when I would see them again. In December four members of our unit, including my good friend Colonel Larry West, were mobilized as a planning team. Their mission was to go to Kuwait and link up with the unit that we were assigned to support, the First Marine Expeditionary Force. This seemed like one more sign that we were going to war. But our mobilization order didn't come in December and I returned home to my family for the holidays.
When I returned to Norristown in January I said good bye to my wife and children a second time not knowing when I would see them again. Almost every day in January the Pentagon issued mobilization orders for Army Reserve units throughout the nation. The newscast were full of diplomatic maneuvering and troops flowing into Kuwait. I had never lived through such tense, uncertain and exciting times. Yet, as the end of January arrived we had still not received any mobilization orders.
On February 8 I flew to Orlando for the weekend to see my family. When my wife dropped me off at the airport one more time we didn't really say good bye. Our emotions weren't able to take it anymore. On February 15 our unit was mobilized. We were to spend the next five weeks in Ft. Bragg waiting for an airplane ride that would not seem to come. During that time my 25th wedding anniversary on March 10 came and went. I was to spend our 26th wedding anniversary in Kuwait waiting to return home.
On a cold, rainy evening on March 19 in the drafty, wooden barracks where we had been living I listened to a radio broadcast of the President's speech announcing the beginning of the war. After all the work and preparation I was disappointed that we were not in Kuwait. In two days, though, I boarded a United Airlines Boeing 747 bound for Kuwait. For me, the war had begun.