Gulf War, Operation Provide Comfort Casualties Remembered
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2005 About 100 family members from as far away as California gathered at Arlington National Cemetery here on Feb. 27 to remember the more than 400 Americans who lost their lives during the Gulf War and Operation Provide Comfort.
Kyle Anderson, 14, holds a white rose behind his back as he waits to place the flower at the memorial stone in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where casualties of the Gulf War are buried. His father, Army helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anders, was killed in a Black Hawk helicopter accident during that war. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The gathering marks the 14th annual remembrance ceremony, which is sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance with cooperation from the Kuwaiti Embassy. The ceremony is held each year in Section 60 of the cemetery, where many Gulf War dead are buried.
"This event is one of the most important I attend each year. Each time I find myself deeply moved by the event itself and by the hard work sustaining it," Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheik Salem al-Sabah said during his keynote address.
The ceremony was highlighted by U.S. Army Band soloist Staff Sgt. Steve Cramer singing "Morning Has Broken" and "On Eagle's Wings," accompanied on the piano by Sgt. 1st Class Faffi Kasparian.
Family members of Gulf War casualties led the Pledge of Allegiance, and representatives from each military service read the roll call of families.
Kuwaiti children, escorted by representatives of countries who suffered casualties in the Gulf War, placed flags on a remembrance panel. Members of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Junior ROTC and Navy Sea Cadets placed roses at gravesites of those killed during the war.
Children, nieces and nephews of Gulf War casualties placed white roses at a memorial stone that reads: "They served with honor. The Persian Gulf 1990-1991. To the brave hearts who gave their lives. May we all know the peace for which they died. Dedicated by No Greater Love, Feb. 25, 1992."
An Army Band bugler and drummer decked out in Continental Army uniforms played "Taps" following the remembrance wreath laying.
"In our fast-paced society, young people sometimes say events less than 20 years ago are ancient history," Sabah said. "This happens far less in my part of the world, since Middle Easterners are rarely accused of having short memories."
He said Arabs think along the lines of William Faulkner, who wrote, "The past isn't dead. In fact, it isn't even past."
"As even casual visitors will tell you, when you make friends with someone from the Arab world, you probably have a new friend for life," the ambassador noted. "Friendships, once made, are deeply cherished.
"Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Kuwait's liberation," Sabah said. "In 1991, America led the international coalition that liberated Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti people will never -- can never -- forget it. Kuwait's government and its people will always remember how the U.S. armed forces reversed Saddam Hussein's aggression and restored Kuwait's rightful sovereignty."
Sabah noted that America and Kuwait were friends and partners before the 1991 liberation. "The Gulf War," he said, "a conflict in which Americans and Kuwaitis fought alongside each other and left blood on the battlefield propelled the U.S.-Kuwait relationship to a whole new level."
He said this was symbolized last year when the Bush administration designated Kuwait as a major non-NATO ally.
"Today, of course, we gather to honor those who served in the 1991 Gulf War and did not return," the ambassador continued. "We also gather to honor the families that loved and supported those who answered their country's call."
Sabah said it's chilling to imagine what the world might have been like if the U.S.-led coalition had not reversed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
"If Kuwait had been annexed and Iraq's ambitions left unchallenged, Saddam Hussein's million-man army would have likely continued its conquests," he noted. "The world's inaction in the face of such blatant aggression would have inspired other aggressors and fostered global anarchy.
"In this context, American sacrifices stopped the emergence of a darker, more dangerous world where 'might makes right' and international law is a nothing but a paper tiger," Sabah said.
He said that Saddam remained dangerous when the Gulf War's major land campaign ceased. "This required the continuing presence and vigilance of the U.S. military to ensure the region's stability and security," the ambassador said.
Despite being under America's watchful eye, Saddam's defiance continued throughout the 1990s. Then, in the post-Sept. 11 world, his noncompliance with the will of the international community had to be addressed, the sheikh noted.
Sabah went on to say that Saddam posed an ongoing challenge and the world community faced a choice. "I could either downplay the dangers or face them squarely," he said. "America's leadership and armed forces faced this challenge. And again, more sacrifice was required."
With Iraq's liberation, he said, a central Arab country has rejoined the international community. The Iraqi people can now decide their own destiny. With the completion of recent elections, this process is under way, the ambassador added.
"American leadership and sacrifices have restored freedoms to long denied Iraq's proud and gifted people," Sabah said. "But what sadly cannot be restored are the sacrifices made on behalf of these freedoms. Every sacrifice is important, but it's particularly tragic when someone pays the ultimate price while serving their country. And nothing anyone does or says can bring back a loved one who is no longer with us. But what we can do is honor the memories of the fallen.
"Let me assure you that your loved ones are remembered not only by Americans, but also in my country," Sabah said. "On behalf of Kuwait's people and government, I extend our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude."