|Gulf War Veterans
Emotions Mixed |
As United States Prepares for a New
Gulf War, Veterans Express Concerns, Support
The Winchester Star
For 11 years, Kirt Love, who
served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm, has been plagued
by migraines, respiratory problems, and especially the memory of a
vicious battle he witnessed between Allied forces and the Iraqi
Another war with Iraq, he says, “will be a bloodbath from start
||Soldiers in Kuwait (above left) are relaxing at camp
during Desert Storm. (left) A destroyed Iraqi Soviet-made tank
was covered with a fine radioactive dust of depleted uranium.
(above right) Matt Tedrick (right) is promoted at Fort
Campbell, Ky., after returning from the Gulf War. Standing
with Tedrick is Maj. Patrick Flanagan, who is currently
stationed in Afghanistan. |
Matthew Tederick, meanwhile, has just as clear memories of
intelligence reports documenting Iraqi war atrocities in Kuwait and
the SCUD missile that exploded near his base in Saudi Arabia.
He supports President George W. Bush’s call for authorization to
use military force and says, “I’d serve my country today [if called
In between these two sharply different opinions lie the feelings
of many local Gulf War veterans. They have seen the danger that
Saddam Hussein poses, but many of them also suffer from the costs of
war with him.
For those who returned shaken, but nevertheless healthy, there is
a sense that the United States must “finish its job” and remove
Saddam from power, said Steve Robinson, director of the National
Gulf War Resource Center in Silver Spring, Md. Other veterans who
suffer from physical or emotional problems as a result of the war
are much more cautious or even outright opposed to military action.
Veteran Venusval Hammack, who lives with Love in Mt. Jackson,
also has concerns about the war, but they relate to her suffering
from Gulf War Syndrome. She and Love run the Desert Storm Battle
Registry, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
During the war, Hammack served as an international paralegal to
the military. On Aug. 3, 1990, one day after Iraqi forces invaded
Kuwait, Hammack was already packing. As she prepared for her
deployment in Saudi Arabia, Hammack said she felt “confident” and
eager to see Kuwait freed.
“I was a GI Jane and I was ready to go,” said Hammack. “That’s
what they train us for.”
But by the last several weeks of her deployment, Hammack was no
longer confident. She was sick. During her final days in the Gulf,
she was only able to eat tuna fish and pudding.
“It wasn’t one thing [that caused the illness],” Hammack said.
“Stress, multiple vaccinations, being near the oil well fires,
occupational exposures — they all played a role.”
|Kirt Love (right) and General Donald Griffith during
the Gulf War. For 11 years, Kirt Love, who served in the Army
during Operation Desert Storm, has been plagued by migraines,
respiratory problems, and especially the memory of a vicious
battle he witnessed between Allied forces and the Iraqi
Republican Guard. |
(Gulf War photos courtesy of Kirt
Other problems continue to plague her, including respiratory
Unable to work, Hammack was “forced out” of the military in 1997.
A little more than a year after the war, Love began experiencing
migraines. Other ailments were discovered, including respiratory
difficulty and nerve damage. Love later discovered that he had no
reflexes, a result of neuropathy.
In the decade since the war, Love and Hammack have founded the
registry and routinely travel to Washington from Mt. Jackson to
lobby legislators to attend hearings on Gulf War Syndrome.
Gulf War Syndrome is not the only reason some veterans oppose
military action. Love said he feels that U.S. casualties from a
ground invasion are not worth it.
As part of the 141st Signal Battalion, Love was part of the
100-hour ground war in 1991. Love recalls seeing fierce fighting
between Iraq’s elite Republican Guard and British and Egyptian
After seeing the Republican Guard in battle, Love said he
believes a future war will be much more difficult. Robinson said
Saddam will use all means necessary to stay alive and in power.
“[Saddam] will fight like he’s never fought before,” said
Robinson, who served in the 1st and 10th Special Forces Division.
“If we can go in and do an air war, that’s one thing,” Love said.
“But a ground war — absolutely not.”
While Hammack, Love, and Robinson all say they would support
military action if proper steps were taken to protect troops and
avoid casualties, one Virginia veteran remains steadfastly opposed.
Charles Sheehan-Miles, a 31-year-old veteran who served in the
24th Infantry Division, says he suffers from post-traumatic stress
syndrome due to his experiences in Desert Storm.
Now living in Reston, Sheehan-Miles said he is particularly
haunted by a memory from the final days of the war.
Early in the morning on Feb. 27, 1991, tanks in the 24th Infantry
fired on a convoy of Iraqi military vehicles from the 26th Commando
Brigade. A fuel truck was one of the first hit. It immediately
exploded, spraying fuel and fire onto a troop transport truck next
to it, burning the Iraqi soldiers alive. The soldiers were then
gunned down, Sheehan-Miles said.
“That changed everything for me,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep at
He filed for a conscientious objector status with the military
about six months after the war and fulfilled his service in a desk
job at Fort Stewart, Ga. until his discharge in September of 1992.
Upon hearing these concerns, Tederick nods. He hopes this war can
be avoided. It could have been, Tederick says, if Saddam had been
dealt with the first time he violated the terms of the 1991 cease
fire. Now, military action may be unavoidable.
Tederick, who is an investment advisor for LPLFinancial Services
in Front Royal served with the 5th Special Forces Division in Desert
A 1985 graduate of Handley High School, Tederick said he had
considered being a career military officer before retiring to devote
time to his family. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute in
1989 and attended Officer Basic Training, Army Airborne School, and
Before and during the war, Tederick collected and disseminated
Tederick was close to the front lines and was even attacked by
Iraq when a SCUD missile exploded near his bunker. But he returned
home healthy and proud of his service to his country. He thinks the
United States should take military action if Bush calls for it.
“It’s only a matter of time before [Saddam] or his regime in some
capacity infiltrates the U.S. and implements some sort of
terrorism,” Tederick said.
Tederick added he does not think that Saddam can be deterred
against using a weapon of mass destruction, because Saddam cares
more about himself and his regime than about his country.
The U.S. Department of Defense said it has learned much since the
Gulf War, and troops today would be better protected than they were
11 years ago.
“The biggest things we learned since the Gulf War is educating
the troops about the risks out there,” Pentagon spokesman Austin
Camacho added that troops now fill out health assessments before
they are deployed and when they return, so any health changes can be
noted. Troops are vaccinated and the United States sends teams to
any deployment area to conduct air and soil tests for toxins and
Regardless of how they may feel about a possible war with Iraq,
Tederick said he hopes citizens will be able to support the troops
if it happens. Morale, he said, is crucial.
“Every troop I encountered during the Gulf War swelled with pride
knowing about the support they had in the U.S.,” he said. “Vietnam
vets [in Desert Storm] wept.”
Desert Storm Battle Registry : www.gulflink.org
National Gulf War Resource