A Post-9/11 Marine Vet Recalls His Earliest Memories Of Operation Desert Storm

Mandatory Fun

My earliest television memory other than my Saturday morning cartoon ritual was watching Operation Desert Storm occur live. And since it was the first American war to have 24-hour news coverage — and since, like many families, we only had one TV — it was the only thing I saw.


Videos and stills of attack helicopters, Tomahawk missile launches, tank charges, and explosions cyclically ran through the commentary. To this day, I still remember hearing CNN’s Peter Arnett narrate the war in his calm Kiwi accent. All of this was happening as my parents kept their eyes diligently glued to the TV.

A burned out Iraqi tank during the first Gulf WarHarv Howard

It was the biggest show of military force since Vietnam. But unlike our endeavors in the east, the U.S.-led expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait was an overwhelming victory, one that the American people desperately both domestically and geopolitically. An awe-inspiring air campaign and three-day ground war, combined with the fact that the Soviet Union was on its last legs, put the U.S. back on track as the undisputed power of the world.

Interrogation of Iraqi prisoners in 1991.Harv Howard

Sandwiched between the U.S.’s previous financial support of Saddam Hussein’s regime during the Iran-Iraq War — one that transitively funded his invasion of Kuwait — and our ongoing headaches in Iraq brought on by the 2003 invasion, Operation Desert Storm highlighted everything America could do on the international stage. The mission was clear, and it was achieved with an abundance of moral and physical support from around the world. The U.S. will never experience a war like it ever again.

A Marine sits in his L.A.V. in Kuwait in 1991Harv Howard

Plus we got Lee Greenwood out of it. So that’s sort of a good thing, I guess.

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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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