By Catherine Alaniz-Simonds
January 6, 2016
We are coming up on the 25th Anniversary of Desert Storm. And as such, I want to share my views on why this should not become the forgotten war.
In the early 90s, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with an army the US helped build during the Iraq conflict with Iran. Kuwait was one of the United States largest oil suppliers. If they were taken over by Saddam, it could have had a drastic impact on the US. This fact alone, upset a lot of people in the US because the feeling was that we were sending our young men and women over to the Middle East to risk their lives for oil.
When I addressed that with my husband, Andy, he sat next to me on the bed and explained that it was not just about the oil. He compared Kuwait to being his next door neighbor. And if someone had broke into their house and was trying to cause harm, it would be his obligation to go and help defend the homeowner. He said this conflict was the same thing but on a grander scale. But of course, leave it to my 5'7, 140 pound little Mexican to come riding up on his white horse to save the day! But that is who he was.
In August 1990, thousands of US troops deployed to Iraq. A deadline of January 15, 1991 was given for Saddam to vacate Kuwait. That day came and went and the following day the US made good on its promise. A massive air attack pursued. On February 24th ground attacks took place to regain Kuwait. Long story short, Saddam retreated, but not until 148 US soldiers lost their lives. A relatively small number compared to other wars.
Andy Alaniz, was one of those killed. A casualty of friendly fire during an attack on the Jahlibah Air Strip. This happened Feb. 27, 1991, the day of the cease fire. We had only been married eight months and I was six months pregnant with our only child. Three months later, I gave birth to our daughter Andee Alaniz-Simonds.
To many, he is just a name in the history of casualties of war. Some know him as "the man in the body bag" made famous by David Turnley's iconic picture of the war. But to some, he is a constant reminder of things that went horribly wrong that fateful day, memories, that to some, still haunt their thoughts, their nights and have even consumed their lives.
Desert Shield/Storm became a televised event which people gathered around their televisions daily to follow. Of course the media put their spin on it as being a huge success. And maybe they were partially right. But to those of us that had loved ones there, we saw things differently. Although the media technology was there, we didn't have Skype, iPhones, computers, email, etc. We had snail mail, Polaroid cameras, cassette tapes and if we were lucky, an occasional phone call if we were home when they got an opportunity to call.
And when the war was over and the media was showing ticker tape parades, there were 148 families that were sitting in front of flag draped caskets. There were no parades for them. There was no success in that campaign and with Saddam left alive to attack again, it felt as if their lives were lost in vain.
As time went on and life continued, Desert Shield/Storm was replaced by bigger conflicts that lasted longer and had much higher casualty counts. The importance of this war seemed to have diminished and even been forgotten.
Last year, in 2015, my views on this changed. After years of searching for my husband's battle buddies, social media brought us together. I realized that I was not alone in my memories of Andy. These guys are still haunted to this day by the events that took place on Jahlibah. Most left the military all together, there were a few suicides of great men, many have had health issues that our government is failing miserably to address and most are suffering from one form or another of PTSD.
I realized that there's no way this war has been forgotten. These guys can't forget it if they tried. The units that mistakenly killed their own guys are reliving that battle every day since. They are living in their own hell on earth.
So as we go into the 25th Anniversary, I think it's vital to remember the events that took place, the lives that were lost and the soldiers that have been changed forever. Lift them up in prayer and let them know they matter.
Widow of US Army Spec. Andy Alaniz
"So as we go into the 25th Anniversary, I think it's vital to remember the events that took place, the lives that were lost and the soldiers that have been changed forever. Lift them up in prayer and let them know they matter."