In the world of
Story from a Gulf War Vet
By Vance Riley
This is a funny story that
takes place in the deserts of Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield /
Storm. The time was early February or late January 1991. I was serving with a
M1A1 tank company ( Bco 1 – 8 Cav 1st Cav) about 5 miles south of the Iraqi
border, in what was considered the old " Neutral Zone" in the tri –
I arrived in Saudi in late
September of 1990. The threat war was on the minds of all Americans as well as
the rest of the world. However, war was mostly on the minds of the soldiers and
There were few pleasures at
that time. The weather was horrible the food was awful (mostly rations) not
mention being far away from your family. One of the few pleasures we did have
was receiving mail. I was very fortunate when it came to mail. I easily received
more than 1 letter a day when we got mail. I received letters from family,
friends and complete strangers. I also received a couple of care packages a
Mail always put me in a good
mood. Conversely, my crewmembers for whatever reason rarely received any type of
mail or packages. I always felt bad for them and I know it affected their
Soldiers on a tank crew over
a period of time become very close, so you never like to see your teammates
feeling bad especially over mail. As a good Riley, I always shared my fortunes
with my crew. In fact, every third day or so the whole platoon would meet, and
the guys who received packages from home would share them with the rest of the
platoon. It was a potluck on a tank that featured canned goods of all types,
smoked oysters, clams, sardines and any other food that would keep you could
send by mail. One of the favorites was my mother’s, Billie Jo Riley,
preserves. They always went quick.
Many times my crew wanted to
know what was going on back home from my letters. I would share news that was
sent to me from home regardless of how big or small. On occasion, I would even
read aloud from letters I received from home.
One letter in particular
stands out. My parents were always sending letters filled with optimism. Billie
Jo Riley wrote in one letter " maybe you’ll run into your Cousin Kevin
Riley he’s over there you know wouldn’t that be something". When
reading this letter, I thought to myself "ha" if she only knew where I
was right now. Amused, I read that part of the letter aloud to my crewmembers,
which drew a chuckle from them. That notion started a conversation about how
Mothers can think and say the craziest things.
We were, at that time in the
absolute middle of nowhere. The only people around me were the 1st Cav soldiers
and some Bedouins. Kevin Riley was from a unit in Germany. He had not been in
– country that long. Saudi Arabia is a vast empty land. The possibility we
would just so happen to run into each other was comical. Besides, we were in the
process of moving from South of Riyadh Saudi Arabia to the Iraqi border for the
Air War was about to begin.
We had moved approximately
300mi from the time I read that letter. Over the next 20 – 30 days my unit was
preparing for the ground attack. Nightly we watched in the distance as our
aircraft bombed the heck out of the Iraqi Army. On one particular day, I had to
go back to our Division rear area about 10 miles away for a work detail. I was
gone all day. On my return I was dropped off at our Company TOC Area (Company
command post) this was about a ¼ mile from my tank’s location. You have to
walk this distance we don’t have curb service in the Cavalry. When I hit the
ground, my supply Sergeant told me I had a visitor at my tank. I said, "
what do you mean a visitor" he said, " I don’t know Sgt. Bennett
radioed and said you had a visitor." I was thoroughly baffled about this.
How would I have a visitor on the damn Iraqi border?
As I made the ¼ mile trek
to my tank, I did notice a wheeled vehicle parked next to my tank, which was
odd. I racked my brain thinking who could it be. The only logical explanation I
could surmise was that something bad had happened to a loved one back home and
someone was dispatched to tell me some bad news. I moved out in double time
towards my tank I was very worried. As I approached my tank, I saw a couple of
troops climbing in and on my tank. As I got closer to my tank, I make out a
shock of red hair atop a lean mean fighting machine wearing a nametag that of
Wouldn’t you know
it……..it was Sergeant First Class Kevin Riley!!
Well, I was in shock. How in
hell did he wind up here? After a hug and a how ya been for my 1st cousin, he
explained how he located me. Kevin, you see was on a "need to know
basis" to know where all troops and equipment were in theater. So, after
some research, he was able to locate me.
After a brief conversation
with Kevin I thought of my "Ma’s" letter, and the comical notion
that I might run into my cousin. I reminded my crew and Kevin of the letter and
we all got a big laugh out of that.
How two 1st cousins could
run into each other given those circumstances is truly remarkable. It also goes
to show you how powerful a Mother’s intuition can be. The Army was so happy
about the reunion that they even bought us dinner. Kevin and I caught up on
things over a nice moon lit Army ration dinner right there on the glamorous
border of Iraq ……the moon light was literally the only light we had.
It was about a week later
when my platoon and another platoon of tanks from my battalion led the 1st
successful ground "raid", (some 2 weeks before the official start of
the ground war) onto Iraq. It was good to see a Riley right before going in…..
and that’s all I got to say about that.
Copyright©2001 Vance Riley