Finishing M.P.T. was uneventful. We received certificates for our records, grabbed our gear out of the barracks, said good bye to each other and left. There seemed to be a somber mood hanging over the hospital and all the soldiers I was in school with were noticing it. Dan and I, however, were excited about going back to the Air Base.
We spoke of local bars we would go to together and him introducing me to his new bisexual girlfriends. I was skeptical of people who liked him. Dan was skinny as a rail and wore thick bottle cap glasses. He was a music aficionado, like myself, who appreciated classic rock n roll. There was a musical trend in Europe going on and it leaned towards disco music. My buddies from the 12 Evac and I would go out looking for dance clubs because that’s where the women would be. Dan, however, brought me back to my roots. He liked women but was unwilling to compromise his likes just to meet them. Most women were offended by him within the first ten minutes of meeting him. I believed his girlfriends were trying to use him.
As we were leaving the hospital to catch a cab I grabbed a copy of Stars and Stripes newspaper from the hospital lobby. The headlines read President Bush was deploying US Troops to Saudi Arabia to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Apparently, Iraq invaded Kuwait over the weekend. It was early August, 1990.
Neither Dan or I spoke during the 45 minute cab ride home. We took turns reading the paper searching for information.
Over the weekend, the President and his administration sought congressional support to deploy troops. Not only did he receive that support, he was now rallying global support. There seemed to be a world wide seriousness over Iraq’s invasion of the smaller, oil saturated country Kuwait. The articles I was reading generally explained a global dependency on oil controlled by the countries of the Middle East. Kuwait seemed to hold a lot of that oil. The world didn’t seem too excited about Iraqi, more specifically Saddam Hussein, controlled oil. The articles described him as a blood thirsty, tyrannical dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people during a long and bloody war with Iran. Iraq’s war hardened military, according to the paper, was amongst the most combat experienced troops in the world.
Having been out of Vietnam for over fifteen years, with no large scale conflicts since the early 1970’s, the United States military was considered “unproven”. The paper went on to describe “worst case scenarios” of an American vs Iraq war. The writers were calling it the beginning of World War III.
There were articles describing Israel’s power and an American reluctance to involve them directly in the deployment. Saddam Hussein, in spite of what the paper called diplomatic solutions, was standing defiant with his fist to the whole world. He was being called the anti Christ and the world had to remove him. His defiance had an anti-Semitic tone calling Israel the root of the problem. He promised a chemical attack launched at Israel in response to any American attack. Israel was promising a Nuclear retaliation for any attack against its people.
Dan and I were surprised to say the least. We both spent the previous day, Sunday, watching Leave it to Beaver reruns on the Armed Forces Network while shining our boots in the day room. They didn’t say anything about World War III. Even the fucking commercials weren’t about war. Just some cheesy advertisements about over drinking and walking alone off post.
Dan immediately reminded me how I had an opportunity to see Pink Floyd live before the world ended but I chose instead to drink beer with an Army nurse in hopes of getting laid. He just wouldn’t let it fucking go.
As we pulled up to the security gate at the Airbase in Weisbaden, we both noticed more guards standing out front. They had even built a wall out of sandbags with riffle muzzles sticking out of it. The post was obviously on alert.
Dan and I walked down the main street carrying our duffle bags noticing the post looked abandoned. No one was outside. I wondered out loud what the day would be like trying to adjust back into life at 12th Evac., then remembered Dan was in a different unit. Gay Moose was on the other side of the base. I asked him if he needed me to escort him there. I didn’t think about that question first. Had I have put any thought into that question I would have remained silent. Dan was a soldier. Every one of us had questions and concerns, however, we were all soldiers first. Dan shot me a look that silenced my protective thoughts for him. His reply, “Fuck you”, reminded me that I was just one soldier of many. We agreed to check in with each other, as soon as we could, over the phone.
Walking through the barracks entrance door to 12th Evac. compared to being a gold fish in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy. There were officers, N.C.O’s and junior enlistment buzzing around in a well organized ballet of movement. Everyone had a place to go and something to do. The unit had been placed on alert. Everyone was now residing in the barracks, or so it seemed. The C.Q. desk was the center of attention. As I passed the desk, in an effort to go unnoticed, I was stopped and handed a piece of paper with a message on it. I was told by the Sgt on duty to get dressed and report back to get my marching orders for the day. I became acutely aware that I needed some coffee to wake up. I had a feeling this day would turn out to be long and weary.
As I entered my empty room, I laid down my duffle bag and looked around for any sign of information. My roommate Dee Cee’s bed, as always, was made and his wall locker was fit for inspection.
I looked at the piece of paper handed to me by C.Q.. It was a message to call my mama as soon as I had a free moment.