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OCTOBER 12, 2002

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Gulf War Veterans Emotions Mixed
As United States Prepares for a New Gulf War, Veterans Express Concerns, Support

By Andrew Martel
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 Republican Guard.

Another war with Iraq, he says, “will be a bloodbath from start to finish.”

gulf-vet4.jpg (14246 bytes) gulf-vet-5.jpg (8850 bytes)
gulf-vet3.jpg (8298 bytes) 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 upon].”

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.”

gulf-vet2.jpg (16657 bytes)
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 Love)

Other problems continue to plague her, including respiratory ailments.

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 forces.

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 night.”

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 Storm.

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 Ranger school.

Before and during the war, Tederick collected and disseminated intelligence.

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 said.

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 other dangers.

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 :

National Gulf War Resource

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