Veterans' Voices: Gulf War

26 July 2018 By Zach Waddle 0 Comments

CONTENT WARNINGThis post deals with difficult subjects such as suicide, combat, sexual assault, and other traumatic events. I strongly urge ANY veteran to use the available resources that the VA provides. Visit the nearest VA, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or visit the Veterans Crisis Line website -- there are people who want to help! For more information, please visit the Veteran and Military Center’s Psychological Counseling page on the WSU website.

The Gulf War, often referred to as Operation Desert Storm, officially began on August 2, 1990 and would last until February 28, 1991. Although Operation Desert Storm took place during the Gulf War, it was only one of the operations conducted by the US during the war. After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the US led coalition forces from 35 nations in an effort to expel the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. These Gulf War veterans have shared their incredible service experiences with Veterans’ Voices, offering many interesting and insightful perspectives.

David Cottrill

Jeffrey Briggs

Dave Cottrill would begin his service at an Episcopal church in Arizona before being sworn into the military to serve as a chaplain. After his first duty station at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Cottrill would deploy to Thailand towards the end of the Vietnam War. He spoke of his time in Turkey, pointing out, “Turkey is really a treasure house of Christian history.” Despite the fighting during his time there, he recalled having a great time. He discussed receiving orders to Germany just as his son was entering college and how they made it work. He even recalled exactly where he was when Operation Desert Storm began.

Angela Woods Swartz

Adrian Hill, Eric Wiete

Angela Woods Swartz described joining the Navy in 1992 as a saving grace for her. Her career began as an undesignated fireman, but she would later transfer to seaman. She described life aboard the USS Holland bound for Guam. While aboard the ship, Swartz began experiencing hearing loss which would eventually result in being unable to hear in her left ear. She also shared her experience with the VA after leaving the military in 1994.

Richard Perales

Adrian Hill

In 1982, Rick Perales was commissioned into the Air Force. Perales came from a military family: his father and four brothers served in the Air Force, and his mother worked as a civil servant for the military. He described growing up on military installations throughout his youth. He discussed his time working in Space Division in Los Angeles as a civil engineer, work which included loading classified payloads and constructing launchpads. He also spoke of working in San Jose helping to build a classified facility. He would spend time in Saudi Arabia just as the Gulf War was beginning.

James Saunders

Eric Wiete

Towards the end of the Vietnam War, Jim Saunders enlisted in the Army. A self-described Army brat, Saunders wasn’t the only one in his family to serve. He is the son of two Army veterans and has two brothers who served. His father would separate from the military just a year before he enlisted. Saunders discussed his time in Germany during the Cold War, which saw a decrease in military personnel. He recalled having to return from overseas leave as Operation Desert Storm began. Upon departing from active duty, Saunders became a reservist as well as a full-time student, all while holding two other jobs and being a new parent.

Christine Ricciardo

Adrian Hill, David Morse

Enlisting in the Air Force in 1981, Christine Ricciardo would work in administration, as well as a program designed to help people struggling to complete their Career Development Courses. She shared a hilarious story about a joke that her grandmother played on her while she was in basic training. Being a vegetarian, Ricciardo explained the difficulties she faced in finding decent food during her time in the military. While discussing her overseas assignments, she recalled going to Germany right after the Rhein-Main Air Base bombing. She described the heightened state of security that followed the attack.

Michael Maloney

Adrian Hill

Michael Maloney enlisted in the Army in 1984, coming from a military family with an Air Force veteran father and five Navy siblings. After becoming a military policeman, Maloney spent time as an investigator. His first tour of combat was during Desert Shield which led into Desert Storm. During the deployment, he maintained an overcrowded prison compound. He recalled building a rapport with the prisoners there simply by treating them with respect. He also explained the significance of the number 401, and discussed his time in Bosnia working in the Black Sheep Platoon.

Pamela Toliver

Keturah Edwards

After going to Wright State, Pamela Toliver decided to enlist in the Air Force in 1980. She shared a story of developing teamwork skills while in basic training that would stick with her with through her life. Toliver worked in personnel, starting at Patrick AFB in Florida. Assigned then to Germany, she would arrive right before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She recalled receiving greeting cards from an appreciative public during the holidays while overseas and how much it meant to her. Toliver discussed the important duties of personnel supporting others.

David Fuller

Jeniffer Seavey

David Fuller joined the Marine Corps in 1978. He shared a story about the struggle of trying to survive sand fleas while also trying to follow orders during basic training. He described the physicality as well as the antagonistic nature of his time in basic training. Fuller’s physical and mental abilities would lead to him working in Reconnaissance. Despite it being against regulation for him to ride a motorcycle, Fuller couldn’t resist the temptation, and as a result suffered a terrible accident. After spending time in military prison, Fuller would be discharged in 1980. He spoke openly of his time in the military, recalling his drug use and fighting.

Kathy Platoni

Jeniffer Seavey

In 1979, Dr. Kathy Platoni was commissioned into the Army. She would also spend time in the Army Reserve before her retirement, after which she worked as a psychologist in a civilian position for the Ohio National Guard. While on active duty, Platoni served in the Army Medical Department. While discussing deployments, she spoke of her passion for her work as a psychologist, which had her embedded with infantry soldiers. She recalled experiences of being under attack as well as witnessing many combat deaths. She is a survivor of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009; Platoni explained that she was supposed to be the direct supervisor of the shooter, Nidal Hasan.

Christopher Fretz

Adrian Hill, Jeniffer Seavey

Marine Corps veteran Chris Fretz enlisted in 1987. Although he originally planned to enlist in the Navy, he would become a Marine alongside his older brother. A love for cooking led Fretz to become a cook. Although he arrived to the 1st Battalion 8th Marines in 1987, he recalled the tension that lingered from the Beirut bombing in 1983. He spoke of enduring a hurricane while aboard the USS Iwo Jima. Fretz explained how a sudden change in gear and training clued them in to their deployment to Saudi Arabia as the war intensified. He also shared a lot of interesting pictures from his deployments!

Floyd Taylor

Adrian Hill

Floyd Taylor enlisted in the Air Force along with three of his siblings. Working in Digital Subscriber Terminal Equipment Repair (DUSTY), he found himself working on technology from two decades earlier. He recalled combat from his time overseas and the death of a friend in Turkey. After he left the military, he found work as a civilian contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Near the end of the interview, a discussion about the GI Bill prompted the interviewer to offer assistance. I point this out because it shows how awesome the Wright State veteran community and VMC are!

Tommy Davis

Eric Wiete, Adrian Hill

Tommy Davis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1977. Not only is he the son of a Navy WWII veteran, he has a brother in the Air Force as well. While in basic training, he recalled a drill instructor giving him the chance to call home and check on his parents during a blizzard. In infantry, Davis worked alongside Army, Air Force, and Navy in Combined Arms Exercise (CAX). He received orders to go to Beirut two days after the 1983 bombings. He spoke of receiving word on Christmas day that his daughter had been put on life support, which led to him returning home.

Daniel Semsel

Adrian Hill, Jonathan Granada

Air Force officer Daniel Semsel was commissioned from 1989 to 2013, serving in the Gulf War, Iraqi War, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. He trained in information systems and management. Semsel discussed his knack for shutting down bases, such as the now inactivated Howard Air Force Base in Panama. After deploying during the Gulf War, his time in Iraq involved Army convoy missions. His final deployment would be to Afghanistan in 2008. Semsel spoke of the combat he endured over the course of his deployments.

Joseph Smith

Adrian Hill

Joe Smith enlisted in the Army in 1975, but would contniue his career as a commissioned officer until his retirement in 1995. His enlisted career began as a Russian Voice Communications Intercept operator. After being stationed in Germany during the Cold War, Smith attended Officer Candidate School in 1979. He discussed he fascinating work he did in psychological operations. During the Gulf War, he would train others in the operation of electronic equipment.

Michael Trantanella

Eric Wiete

With siblings in the Army and Navy, Michael Trantanella enlisted in the Army in 1980. He worked in Ground Surveillance Repair after graduating basic training. While at Fort Riley, he would complete an associate's degree. He recalled experiencing snow during his time in the Mojave Desert. Trantanella described the process of deploying at a moment’s notice to Germany. He also spoke of his time in Korea dealing with an infiltration incident.

Tera Pollard

David Morse

In 1991, Tera Pollard began her first enlistment in the Navy before separating and reenlisting in 1995. During her service, she worked as a cryptologic technician for military intelligence. Her first assignment was in Japan during a time when women were not allowed to be at sea. However, this would change around the end of her first enlistment. Upon reenlisting, Pollard was stationed in Hawaii where she had the special assignment of working as a legal assistant. She discussed being a vegetarian while in the service and explained why she hasn’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in over 25 years.

Julie Constable

Adrian Hill

In 1983, Julie Constable entered the Air Force as a commissioned officer working in the Nurse Corps. As a nurse, she would also provide necessary procedures for animal care. Once Desert Storm had begun, Constable was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England with the responsibility of doubling the hospital’s bed capacity for potential casualties. She spoke of caring for patients during that time, recalling the positivity of the wounded servicemembers despite their injuries.

As always, I want to thank these veterans for sharing their stories with Veterans’ Voices! I’d also like to thank everyone responsible for making these interviews possible.


My next post will focus on the Iraqi and Afghan wars that began in the early oughts.

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