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Creative Arts Show features Veteran artists and authors

A collage of visual art show entries in VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s 2022 Veterans Art Show includes an assemblage by Jayson Nixon, left, an oil painting by Anthony Grano, top center, a metal sculpture by Bob McKay, bottom center, and a photo by Elizabeth “Liz” Zemba.

The 2022 VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Veterans Creative Arts Show has gone virtual for the second year in a row.

Following are Veterans’ creative writing entries. To see Veterans’ visual arts entries, please visit our Facebook post.

Entries are awaiting judging, with the winners to advance to national competition. Nationwide, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. All Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care are welcome to participate. The show is a celebration of Veterans’ artwork and creative achievements.


SAMMY AND SUSIE GOT MARRIED
by Dave Amaditz

We were just kids.
Running and playing,
All planning on staying
Right there on the street they were born.

There was Sharon and Big Po and Bubbles and Peach.
Staggies, and Randy, who’d fight and then each
Would go on with their playing like nothing was wrong.
Like cousins or brothers. Don’t stay mad for long.

There was Sammy and Susie and Louis and Leo.
Shelby and Jackie all acting like they’d go
On living like kids, for right now and forever.
Like young Peter Pan’s. Growing up? Never! Never!

They built them a clubhouse to hold secret meetings.
Played board games and card games. Called out others cheating.
Played hockey and football out under the streetlights.
All hoping their parents would not call till daylight.
Played hide and go seek long before first romances.
Release and red rover. Sleepovers. Home dances.

But when there was trouble the elders took over.
They banded together. They acted like one.
One phone call away and the trouble was done.

Hey, Mama!
I saw Jackie inside of my garden just now
My rose in his hand yet I did not allow
Him to be there or pick it. I hope that you would
Please go talk to him. Tell him that stealing’s no good.

Hey, Mama!
Your son, Staggies, just knocked on my door and then ran.
He was laughing and joking like he had a plan
To try hardest to scare me, to scare and old man.
But just why he would do this, I don’t understand.

Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama!

Played fighter. Who’s tougher? Would not be outdone.
Peacemaker soon after. Don’t hurt anyone.
Played army. Mock battles, team USA won.
Played drinker. Played smoker. Teen life had begun.
Played lovers. Shared secrets found under the covers.
Could not stay away from temptations discovered.

But when there was trouble the elders took over.
They banded together. They acted like one.
One phone call away and the trouble was done.

Hey, Mama!
Your Sharon’s been seen. She’s been acting so bad.
Got your smokes in her one hand. It’s making me sad
To see how she’s throwing a good life away.
She is on the wrong track. She is going astray.

Hey, Mama!
I seen Shelby and Louis behind the high school.
The late bell had rung. They were acting like fools.
Had a beer in the one hand. No books in the other.
On track for suspension like their older brother.

Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama!

These young Peter Pan’s had such fun being kids.
Why grow up when Fun was a place where they hid?
Till two of them took things a little too far.
Some fun backseat action in Sammy’s new car.
They questioned what happened whose fault that it was
But both in the end paid for all their faux pas.

Cause elders could not heal up this kind of trouble.
So Sammy and Susie were left on their own.
They went straight into doing to show how they’d grown.

Hey, Mama!
I heard the good news, heard it straight from the source.
That Sammy and Susie will soon be on course
To be first ones to marry, to wed, seal a bond.
Be the first to raise kids, start anew, move beyond
The one street they were born; the same street they were raised,
The parents who helped them are ones to be praised.

Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama! Hey, Mama!

The parents saved trouble by acting that way.
A village was needed to raise kids to stay
Far away from bad trouble. From life on the outs.
Till good men and woman were able to sprout.


WINDS OF CHANGE
by Dave Amaditz

I saw you today on the TV.
You’re waving your flag in the air,
Shouting and screaming, you said, “I ain’t leaving.”
“The shit that they’re pulling ain’t fair.”
“Ain’t fair that you stole this thing from me.”
“Ain’t fair that you want me to go.”
“I’m taking my things cause this big house is mine.”
“You fakers all reap what you sow.”

Reap what you sow.

Reap what you sow.
You fakers all reap what you sow.

But when you were young you weren’t like this.
Fighting for things that weren’t true.
It’s killing me slowly to know that you’re doing
The things you would once never do.
It leads me to wonder what happened.
Are you the same person I knew?
Or have you like others just gone on allowing
The winds of change sweep over you?

Sweep over you.

Sweep over you.
The winds of change sweep over you.

The winds of change are blowing.
Knocking down what we once knew.
Circling, howling, raging louder.
Contriving to steal what is true.
Contriving to steal what is true.


DEMARCATION LINES
by Don Clark

I steered
The ship to the
Line of demarcation
Twelve nautical miles off the coast
Of hope

The Nav
Called “Helm, all stop”
While his assistant snapped
His big black grease pencil in half
“Helm, Belay! —

Do not
Cross that line, Mac!”
But the Navigator
Ordered his assistant away
And crossed

I watched
With purple ease
At what came down from high —
The Captain had his orders, too
I knew

“You have
The deck and I
Have the con” Skipper said
It was here in this moment I
Knew dread

Why me?
I thought, leaning
Over the plot, but here
Comes the Captain, he orders
The Slot

Low skies
Burnt blue in the
Heat of the afternoon
As fires burned down half the city
So blue

Warlords
Get theirs as thieves
In their despair take all
That you’ve got, how slowly we rot
The air

Pressed were
They out to the
Coast from the pastures they
Farmed all their life, with kids and wife;
A knife

How they
Pushed and they pulled
And learned to fish the bay
But big ships took the fish, was this
Their wish?

Big Men
Took charge and made
Their people bend down
With their heads to their hearts, even kids—
The start

I don’t
Know what they saw
When the Hawk in the sky
Made its flyby and dropped its tin
On them

Helm! Right
Full Rudder! Come
To course…
is what he said
To the kid driving our fast boat—
Dive! Dive!

I still
Wonder what I
Did to those misplaced folks
From the coast where all bodies float

away….


HER
by Jayson Nixon

I came to your door
You did not answer
you did not invite me in
I could not see your blue gray eyes
I could not see your beautiful smile
I felt longing and pain
I felt the yearning for your touch
to hear your angelic voice
the torture, the anguish
and then . . . .
I awaken to see your eyes
to hear your voice
to see your smile
to feel your touch
to taste your lips
then all is forgotten


INTRO SEEITHEA
by Mario Gorsop

Sitting on a planet of many, where a new life for Soulo opens up. He could only dream of it before but now its all coming to life demons, witches, prince and princess, magic, etc. Torn between doing a good thing and bad thing he will soon have to decide to move forward or consider moving o the dark side. After playing with a Ouija bored Solo gets attacked for the first time by a Sissoreraft demon in the woods where he is taken to an informatory in an old church where he is soon to meet jace his new battle and also Seth another battle buddy. After soulo awakens he meets his new friends and they soon explain what had happened.

“I don’t know what to say guys,” Soulo proclaimed.

“ I wouldn’t either, you where just attacked,” Seth said.

“I know im still trying to wrap my head around it all, and now your telling me demons really are real, I don’t know whether to be happy or I guess sad,” Soulo said.

“Yeah well either way your involved now,” Jace said.

After their talk Soulo needed a minute to comprehend everything so Seth took him on a tour of the building their last stop was a virtual reality world where Soulo would spend the next couple of months training to be a demon hunter.

It was their first quest together Soulo was excited while on the other hand Jace showed no emotion about it. His face was just blank.

After discovering a secret layer, they are sent around town to 3 different locations when a brutal attack let way and Soulo and Jace kick ass. Before heading to the final stop they made there way back to there domain where they soon discover Alkawraths plan. 


UNKALSAY NE SU
by Mario Gorsop        

Never did I imagine it but experience it, the life of being an uncle and the glorious feeling of love we share for one another. Just having someone who looks up to me gives me such incredible joy. Their names are Faith and Jordyn two incredible, beautiful, wild, crazy, and just free little girls. We may talk about poop and want to play truth or dear, or hide and go seek, or it-tag or even school. It doesn’t matter what we play, they want to play with me. It makes me think about when ill have kids of my own, I can already see what kind of father ill be. No rush, plenty of time for all that. I feel wanted needed almost and those can be some amazing feelings and understanding points. So, I have for you two of my favorite people in the whole world all sketched out. I love when the girls ask me questions and how I’m apart of their growth. One day Ill have an amazing family of my own. 


MY MISSED MILITARY CHRISTMAS AND EXPLOSIONS OVER RIYADH DURING DESERT STORM
by Michael P. Mauer

When the sirens, klaxons and horns sounded, it meant you had a few minutes to take cover or find a good position to watch. The cloudless desert sky provided an excellent backdrop. Much like a shooting star, it could easily be seen without binoculars. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army was sending another of its much-vaunted Scud missiles to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Most people stateside received a sanitized version of Scud attacks from traditional media sources during Operation Desert Storm. I had an unfiltered, front-row seat. A common misconception was that incoming Scud missiles were vaporized by Patriot missiles, and that after all Iraqi threats were thoroughly reduced to atoms, the Patriots self-vaporized themselves.

It was a paradox. During my entire time in Saudi Arabia, I never heard an explanation as to how a Patriot could successfully intercept a Scud missile without causing some collateral damage. The process I witnessed was loud and messy. A Scud weighed approximately two tons after its fuel was expended, and each Patriot weighed nearly one ton. Each Scud usually required a number of Patriots for a successful intercept. An attack by the Iraqis normally brought a heavy rain of shrapnel, a loud series of explosions, and an extensive cleanup.

Often, the Scud made the Patriots’ job more difficult as the Iraqi missiles tended to break apart – separating the lethal warhead away from the main rocket body. Patriots would target the parts, and the unguided warhead would freefall – often exploding on contact. 

During the first Gulf War, Scud warheads, debris and shrapnel rained on Riyadh, as well as other urban areas in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Qatar. To this day, I still display part of a Scud on my living room wall.

 I credit my high school guidance counselor for this Desert Storm souvenir.

During my junior and senior years, I wrote and did illustrations for my high school literary magazine. I was encouraged by the school’s faculty to develop my talents in college. In the fall of 1980, I began my studies toward a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa.

In college, I received six weighted credits as editor of the student-run weekly newspaper, The Globe, and earned three more credits writing press releases as an intern with the United States Small Business Administration. I graduated in the spring of 1984.

At that time, Pittsburgh’s traditional steel industry and manufacturing base was rapidly eroding. Companies weren’t hiring. After a stint of free-lance writing and working in a convenience store, I figured I’d try expanding my options. The employer that offered me the best deal was the Army.

I enlisted in October 1984, and was sent to Fort Sill, Okla. for 13 weeks of training to become a canon crewman. I got a really good contract. I entered the Army as an E-3 – a private first class. When I completed my initial training, I received a $5,000 bonus, and an accelerated promotion to E-4 – specialist - following my first few months with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

After attending Jungle Warfare School in Fort Sherman, Panama, I went back to Pittsburgh and married my spouse, Marsey. I came down on orders for assignment to Baumholder, Germany, about a year later.

While there, I served with A battery, 2/29th Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Infantry Division. It was a very active unit, and we spent many weeks in the field maneuvering and firing our howitzers, as well as enhancing our other warfighting skills. Three years into my enlistment, I received word that all of my outstanding student loans had been forgiven. This was another benefit of my contract. By this time, I had also graduated primary leadership development school and basic noncommissioned officers’ school. I earned a promotion to howitzer gunner and sergeant, E-5, and was considering future options with the Army.

Towards the end of my tour in Germany, I asked for and received a transfer to be on the staff of the weekly 8th Infantry Division newspaper, The Champion Times. It was granted. With my note book and camera, I was out covering soldiers in the field. This was something my civilian counterparts did not do. I reenlisted and was accepted for training as a 46Q – public affairs specialist, photojournalist.

The first thing I learned at the military’s Defense Information School in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., was I wasn’t the only one who wanted to write for Uncle Sam. My class consisted of soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines. All had received superior scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam and qualified for security clearances. Most had some type of post-secondary education in English or journalism. Several had bachelor’s degrees, and a couple had done graduate work. That didn’t keep the cadre from failing them if they didn’t know how or couldn’t learn to write.

That made the school challenging, and I enjoyed it. In addition to academics, soldiers there did field exercises and road marches. Guest lecturers during the 10 weeks I attended included Adrian Cronauer, the former air force sergeant from Pittsburgh whose talents inspired the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam”, and award-winning journalist Robert U. Woodward, a former military communications officer who earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale College through a navy scholarship and co-wrote the book “All the President’s Men”.

The military considers DINFOS a premier learning institution. I was told there the goal wasn’t just to turn out adequate writers, but good writers. The operational idea is that should a civilian editor have to pick your story or wait, your copy would run first because of timeliness. “Maximum disclosure, minimum delay” was the motto. It permitted military public affairs to initiate and control news cycles. And during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, it did.

But the process was too hard for many. As the student platoon sergeant for Company B, 2nd Battalion, Troop Brigade, I watched my ranks shrink at every formation. The casualties of misspelled proper names, improper grammar usage or just plain poor writing were shifted to other needs of the military. I wasn’t one of them. I placed eighth in class standing out of the remaining 24 that graduated the course, and was sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

At the proving ground, I was assigned to the United States Army Ordnance Center and School Public Affairs Office. I was writing again, and contributing to military and civilian publications. Within three months, Marsey and I welcomed the arrival of our first daughter, Sarah. About nine months later, Iraq invaded Kuwait. I came down on orders to deploy in support of Operation Desert Shield. Following a couple weeks of getting up to speed with operational security concerns at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., a one-man unit consisting of me arrived in Riyadh and reported for duty.

It was against that city the Iraqi military launched 20 Scud missile attacks from Jan. 21 to Feb. 24, 1991.

Although nearly two-and-a-half million people lived in Riyadh when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, the population seemed to have dropped significantly during the six months leading up to the first Scud attacks. I was able to notice this daily as my duties required me to travel about 12 miles from my quarters in Eskan Village to the United States military and civilian media offices at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

At first, the change was gradual. With thousands of troops arriving each day by October 1990, Riyadh was a bustling place. It was difficult to tell with all the military activity just how many civilians might be leaving or staying. But as the number of uniformed people grew, the gleaming, modern office buildings under the cloudless desert sky became office space for coalition forces. The displaced civilian population was moving somewhere.

Before the Scuds came, the Saudi city was like a jewel in the desert. With its abundance of greenery, sleek highways, many automobiles and shops, Riyadh seemed quite cosmopolitan but not European or American. When I first arrived in country, many of us travelled around the city when not on duty and got to know it well. We were astounded to find that it had many of the modern chain restaurants that were popular in the United States. Pizza, ice cream, hamburgers and fried chicken were plentiful and easy to buy. The more adventuresome of us would try the shawarmas offered by local vendors, and haggle with shopkeepers in the large markets, or souks.

It was during such a trip that I was able to buy an Aladdin-style brass lamp and two small wooden camel figurines to send home to my wife and daughter. After several emotional outbursts and wild gesticulations, I was able to negotiate an initial 50 riyal price done to 10. No small accomplishment.

Later, between writing assignments and other duties, trips around Riyadh provided a needed diversion, and were remarkably safe. We didn’t always have to be in uniform, and shuttle busses were available to help us move around. But as always with the military in deployment mode, there were some extra regulations to help us adhere to the status of forces agreement penned by the coalition hierarchy.

This included no consumption of alcoholic beverages anywhere in the theater of operations as defined by United States Central Command. Also, any personnel visiting public areas were forbidden to mix military uniform apparel with civilian clothes. Eating in restaurants or shopping while in uniform was not allowed, but exceptions were made for those just picking up take out. Clothes were required to be loose-fitting and conservative. Shorts, gym outfits and tank tops could not be worn in public areas. This was considered to be anywhere outside of a United States military-controlled compound.

As a nod to our host nation, servicemembers were told to avoid wearing traditional Arab attire such as thobes and guttras. Female personnel could not wear bright-colored clothing, and had to keep their upper arms and shoulders covered at all times while in public. Abayas were not required, but women in the United States military who wished to wear them received instructions on how to fit the garment correctly.

All shirts were required to have collars and sleeves. Male military personnel could not wear earrings. Any religious jewelry had to be worn out of sight – usually inside troops’ shirts. I personally solved this issue by placing a small silver cross handed to me by a chaplain at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport on my dog tag chain. It hung next to my P-38 can opener.

Most importantly, we were required to keep a low profile and not call attention to ourselves. We were on guard not to offend our host nation, or alert potential terrorists. So long as we kept our M-16 rifles broken down and carried in military-issue laundry bags, we were free to move around the city with relative ease. For the most part, we minded regulations and things went smoothly. Many of the rules that could quickly land you in trouble, however, were particularly onerous to military photojournalists.

For example, one of the biggest scares other than the persistent terrorist threat was running afoul of the mutaween, or religious police from the country’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Proper attire, respect for the local culture, customs and laws were drummed into us. Breaking the rules regarding gender separation, fraternization and photography got several into hot water with the local authorities. And many rules designed to reduce cultural friction were also filtered down through the chain of command.

A press release issued through the United States Central Command’s Joint Information Bureau reminded female servicemembers that its Sept. 20, 1990 policy regarding driving had not changed. Female soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were prohibited from driving any civilian vehicles, to include rental vans, trucks, sports utility vehicles and staff cars. This edict included trips that could be considered as official duties. Women could drive military vehicles, but only under specific conditions. They had to be in complete military uniform to include desert camouflage shirts and headgear.

For those whose military occupational specialties required using cameras, such as mine, the rules were arguably more restrictive. American troops were advised through the CENTCOM News Service that they should use extreme caution when taking photographs in Riyadh, as well as throughout Saudi Arabia. The photography of military installations, holy places and local women was strictly prohibited. Also forbidden were pictures of strategic resources like civilian airports, oil fields and refineries. Palace gates - as well as public executions and mosques - were also banned from curious shutter bugs.

Not that some military personnel didn’t try. Violating these rules did get a few into trouble with local police. In at least one instance, a coalition military officer took a seemingly innocent photo of a crowded downtown street. On his way home, he was confronted by local police and apprehended. His camera and film were both confiscated.

As Desert Shield and Desert Storm took place just before the rapid spread of cell phones and digital photography, we quickly noticed that the Saudis took their restrictions quite seriously. These rules also impacted our duty assignments. We had difficulty finding any local outlets that developed film, or sold chemicals needed for us to do so. Fortunately, many of the mobile public affairs detachments deployed brought their own film processing equipment, chemicals and image paper. I had the privilege of going out on assignment with one of the best – the 14th Public Affairs Detachment out of Fort Carson, Colo.

With the 14th PAD, I was able to travel out into the desert and cover troops that were newly arrived in country. I filed a story in early November 1990 about Co. D, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade out of Fort Benning, Ga., for Army Central Public Affairs. Sweltering in the desert heat, the unit was conducting nuclear, biological and chemical training. This required wearing hot, bulky protective outfits, as well as M-17 gas masks. They also rehearsed the steps needed to decontaminate their vehicles and other equipment.

In a way, the assignment was nostalgic. The M-113 armored infantry vehicles they drove reminded me of the M-548 ammunition haulers I used train with when I was a cannon crewman. As a former member of the combat arms, I’d done this type of training many times before.

While in the field, I enjoyed my missions immensely. I felt good that I was now where there were many soldiers’ stories to be told – and I as a former solder in the combat arms would be telling them.

Other units I filed stories and photographs on included those from the Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 197th Brigade, also from Fort Benning, Ga., and the 3rd Armed Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

My heart went out to these troops in the desert. Like the pictures taken by my Canon AE-1 35mm camera, my time with them was just a snapshot. I could take advantage of a hot shower, decent food and soft quarters when I wrote my articles and disseminated my media products back to the United States, Europe and in theater. They could not. As a former artilleryman, I knew all too well what it was like to be roasting hot - saddled with heavy equipment - and serving the whims of a weapons system that would also be my chariot home once the exercise was over.

Things moved quickly during Desert Shield, and personnel were rapidly shifted according to need. That included me. Following my time with the 14th PAD, I was assigned as the Noncommissioned Officer In Charge of Command Information, United States Central Command. There, my main duty was supervising a group of fellow military journalists and editing a small newsletter.

Although as industrious and creative as the writers I headed while in college, the military journalists had far fewer work distractions and were incredibly disciplined. I regularly drew cartoons to help keep up morale, but the effort wasn’t really needed. The enlisted personnel and officers above us were very focused.

We were a busy group working in our offices and covering assignments in and around Riyadh. We would also travel farther out from the city when the mission demanded it. This was an era without smart phones, digital photography, or many of the other electronic conveniences regularly used today. We gathered information the old school way – interviews with pencil, notepad and telephone. Our bulky keyboards clacked incessantly as the press materials we wrote flowed onto our monochrome white-on-blue or white-on-green computer screens.

Since DINFOS was a joint school for every branch of the military, we’d all received the same journalistic training. If you graduated the school, you knew what you were doing. The learning curve was quite small. All of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were superb writers and produced a large amount of media materials in a short period of time.

The CENTCOM News Service was up and running on December 1, 1990. By the end of the first week in February 1991, the USCENTCOM Command Information Program had produced and distributed 301 print and 74 broadcast releases. Although a few of these releases were spiked for operational security reasons, or combined with other press material, the majority went out the door without any difficulty.

Also during this time, a dozen issues of the newsletter had been produced. Combined, they contained 136 news and feature articles. Each was mailed and faxed to 51 public affairs offices in the theater of operations, and 10 headquarters public affairs elements in the continental United States and in Europe.

Both military and civilian publications would reprint and disseminate our media products. The Stars and Stripes were a regular customer, as well as USA Today. But most of our material went out to the troops via unit-produced newspapers and newsletters. There were more than two dozen up and operating, such as the weekly 8-12 page, gloss-stock, offset printed Desert Dragon that served the XVIII Airborne Corps, and the bi-weekly, eight page Screaming Eagle that was produced by my old division, the 101st.

The CENTCOM News Service also had a robust broadcasting operation for radio and television, but being a print guy, I was not directly involved with that effort. I do know from what I saw on television and heard on radio that their personnel were doing fantastic work with regular three- and five-minute Desert Storm updates.

A few computers had modems back in the early 1990s. We would also distribute press materials using what would later be known popularly as the internet. This method was the most favored as print products could be sent at 1,200 to 2,400 baud speed, and reach scores of media outlets after a few seconds or minutes of upload time.

If there were high speed networks back then, we didn’t have access to them. The distinct acoustical noise that accompanied the handshaking of two computers communicating with each other meant that our digital signals would be converted to analog, then back again. Eager editors at the other end of the network could now simply cut and paste our releases, and insert them into their publications.

The digital cameras we were given to work with at that time could not produce photographs of a printable quality as good as film. My unit briefly experimented with electronic photography and passed. What pictures we did send out were mostly done through the mail - developed from film negatives to image paper. A few of these were scanned and sent digitally, but these weren’t much desired by the units we served. The product was too grainy and blurry.

By the time Bob Hope arrived in Eskan Village around Christmas 1990 with an entourage that included baseball great Johnny Bench, CENTCOM News Service was running smoothly. But at the end of the comedian’s show, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Central Command commander-in-chief, took the stage to wish the service members a Merry Christmas, then ordered us to avoid all market areas in Riyadh because the terrorist threat alert had been raised.

This was the only Christmas I had in the military that I didn’t spend at home.

Things were now getting serious. In fact, less than a month after Hope’s visit, more than a dozen Scud missiles would be battling Patriot batteries within 20 miles of the stage at Eskan Village. United States troop strength would swell to more than 500,000 and Operation Desert Shield would turn into Operation Desert Storm.

On Jan. 17, 1991, the balloon went up.  Our shop immediately went from an 18-hour operational day to 24-hours. Coalition forces began pounding Iraqi military positions from the air - degrading that country’s military. One of the more elusive targets proved to be Saddam Hussein’s mobile Scud launchers.

This became evident to us in Riyadh when within a 12-hour period during the night of Jan. 21 – 22, 1991, at least six Iraqi Scud missiles were launched at Saudi Arabia. The first one came at about 10:30 p.m. local time. It landed in the water a good distance from us - somewhere northwest of Al Jubail. Some of the ones in my shop with combat arms training thought this one might be a feint to test our ability to react and defend ourselves. Unfortunately, we were right.

Early on Jan. 22 at 3:45 a.m. local time, at least two Scud missiles were launched toward Riyadh. One of these was intercepted and destroyed by a Patriot missile crew assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery. The second Scud impacted in a civilian neighborhood near a coalition air base. Later at around 7:30 a.m., three more Scuds were launched at Saudi Arabia’s eastern province. One missile was intercepted and destroyed. The other two impacted in unpopulated areas.

Iraq’s first Scud attacks during Desert Storm on Saudi Arabia began a day earlier Jan. 20 when three of the missiles were launched at Dhahran. Army Patriot crews from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery claimed to had bagged these.

All of the warheads from Scuds used during Operation Desert Storm were thought to have been conventional. Chemical detectors would occasionally react and go off following Scud explosions, but retesting showed these to be false positives.

At least five of the Scuds that impacted in Riyadh delivered warheads that detonated and caused damage. As a trained artilleryman, I could basically tell whether the explosions were airbursts or had impacted. As most of the civilian population had moved, casualties reported across Saudi Arabia were light – approximately one killed and six dozen injured. Buildings damaged by Iraqi Scuds during Operation Desert Storm in Riyadh included those on the Islamic University campus, a girls’ school and the Saudi Department of Interior. Thankfully, all of these areas were a few miles from where I was.

 Not so fortunate were those who were killed by an Iraqi Scud missile attack that hit an Army barracks in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 25, 1991. Twenty-eight United States personnel were killed, including more than a dozen reserve soldiers from the 14th Quartermaster Detachment based in Greensburg, Pa. This gave Pennsylvania the distinction of losing more service members during the first Gulf War than any other state. Approximately 100 more soldiers were also wounded during this incident where the Patriot systems failed to intercept the incoming Scud.

Shortly afterward, the Scuds stopped falling. Nearly as fast as United States military forces had arrived, they were now starting to head home. Things in Riyadh began to return to normal although a significant United States military presence remained. An armistice was signed, prisoners were exchanged and on March 15, 1991, I received orders to head back to Aberdeen Proving Ground. My unit of one rotated back to the United States, courtesy of an air force C-141 Starlifter. Less than one year later in March 1992, my second daughter Rachel was born.

Now living in Pittsburgh, I’ve gone to the memorial in Greensburg that commemorates the Al Khobar Scud attack to pay respects to my fellow Desert Storm soldiers who’d lost their lives. I am grateful to do so. Being able to return unhurt and help raise my family, I consider the last three decades a blessing. Since Desert Storm, I’ve spent every Christmas at home.


Editor’s note: creative writing entries were not edited and are entirely the work of the authors.

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