Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Gulf War Vet Talks about Life Near Iraq

Gulf War Vet Talks about Life Near Iraq
Website Content edited by Pamela Appea for KPTM-Fox 42’s Website
Originally posted March 19, 2003

Twelve years ago, this week, a Nebraska soldier arrived home from serving on the front lines in Iraq. Felipe Sanchez talked to KPTM about what he saw then and what many of our soldiers can expect to see now.

“When they show the soldiers training, in the wind storms, I feel that I know what they’re going through as far as missing home and missing their loves ones,” said Felipe Sanchez, a Gulf War Veteran.

“I can imagine how it was when I went through. Those tense hours of waiting, then hearing we’re finally going on,” Felipe Sanchez recalls.

Felipe was near Baghdad at the height of Operation Desert Storm. He lived in tents and traveled by tanks. Every morning, he would wake up to the sound of U.S. helicopters flying training missions overhead.

Felipe said he never once had to fire on the enemy. Surprisingly, Felipe says Iraqi soldiers were usually eager to surrender. The fact was, that most of these soldiers were no older than 16.

“It was so sad to see them coming out of the woodwork. Skinny kids with no shoes on even. You never think that’s what we’re going after.”

But perhaps Felipe remembers finding leaflets in Iraq. U.S. planes today drop similar propaganda urging Iraqi soldiers to surrender. “They would drop them on Iraq. They said, ‘soldiers,’ we’re going to be in your area. We want you to surrender, think of your family. We’re not here to battle, we’re here to surrender.”

Felipe also encountered many civilians, who were not overtly unfriendly to U.S. soldiers.

“They were really nice to us. It surprised us. We thought they’d be hateful, but there also many tense moments as a soldier,” Felipe remembers.

On more than one occasion, Felipe wrote his last will and testament, after receiving so-called “suicide orders.’

“We were given, I think, a total of four orders that we’d be dropping in on Iraqi positions on the Iraqi Republican Army. And they had heavy artillery at the time. We were told one in four of us would probably survive if we went in. But, lucky for us, orders were changed, Felipe said.

Felipe survived eight months in and around Iraq. On the day he learned the war was over, he inscribed “road to Baghdad” in the hard Iraqi sand.

Felipe envisions a similar ending for soldiers this time around, “I have so much confidence in the guys, in their equipment. It’s so much better than what we had, and we went through fairly quickly and easily.”

Felipe also had some interesting personal advice for military families who are looking to send care packages to soldiers near and around Iraq.

Felipe said what we and other soldiers wanted and appreciated weren’t the boxes of chocolates—which mostly arrived melted. Instead, he says to send more practical items like baby wipes, surgical masks and Q-Tips to help keep off the desert dust.