It may be more than a quarter of a century since they shipped off to the Persian Gulf to be part of the international conflict triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, but veterans of that war have hardly forgotten. Two of the 68 who served there died and members of the Guam military police unit earned three Bronze Star decorations.
The celebration of the anniversary was anything but solemn, with barbecue on the beach, cultural dancers and a lot of comradeship among local veterans of wars stretching back to before Vietnam.
As the history goes, in November 1990 the United Nations Security Council authorized the use of force against Iraq if it did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991. By January 1991 the allied coalition against Iraq had reached a strength of 700,000 troops, including 540,000 U.S. personnel and smaller numbers of British, French, Egyptians, Saudis, Syrians, and several other national contingents. Saddam steadfastly refused to withdraw Iraqi forces from Kuwait, however, which he maintained would remain a province of Iraq.
Captain Robert D. Camacho was the commanding officer of the 468th Military Police Company, which processed prisoners at five camps. Remembering that time as he thought about it, Camacho choked up as he began to speak.
"We went out to the desert and it was quite difficult of course, because everyone was unsure. And we were scared about SCUD missiles and chemical attacks, so we prepared as much as we could. But it seemed when we put up the flag everyone knew what they were there for. We put up the American flag and also the Guam flag and it was such a defining moment for all of us when we put up the camps."
To this day, Camacho takes a lot of pride in how prepared his troops were compared to others in the international force.
"We dug trenches, we put up sandbags and the other people said, 'what are you doing?' and we said 'we're getting ready for war.' Nobody else was putting their stuff up. We were so prepared. Looking around at the other soldiers, they were ill prepared. They didn't have helmets and all of this stuff. We really outshined many other units. The Chamorros, along without about five people from Hawaii, showed the others that as an island, we were ready. We were recognized for processing over 25,000 prisoners in three short months."
Guam Senator Frank Aguon, also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Guam Air National Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007 and 2011, presented a legislative resolution congratulating the Desert Storm-Desert Shield vets. Senator Aguon also chairs the legislative Committee on Guam-U.S. Military Buildup, Infrastructure, and Transportation.
Not all the off-island media who came to Guam chasing the North Korea nuclear missile threat have left the island yet. As the Desert Storm vets observed the anniversary, an Osaka, Japan TV crew was busy interviewing a Vietnam vet.