Families of 1991 Gulf War Casualties Honored

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2005 Families came here from 18 states on Feb. 26 to attend a reception at Kuwaiti Embassy so Ambassador Sheik Salem al-Sabah could personally thank them for the ultimate sacrifice their loved ones made to liberate his country during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

A remembrance ceremony in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where many of those killed during the Gulf War are buried, followed on Feb. 27.

"We in Kuwait thought, 'What can we do to show our appreciation for the families of those fallen in the war that liberated my country?' the ambassador said. He noted that in 1992, the year after the war, the Kuwaiti ambassador at that time conceived the idea of holding a remembrance cerebration every year on Feb. 26 and invites all the families of the young men and women that gave their lives in the operations that liberated Kuwait. The ambassador decided to bring them to Washington for the celebration at the Kuwaiti embassy.

"We're very honored as the Embassy of Kuwait to host them every year," he noted. Sabah said two important things to Kuwaitis are for him to personally shake the hands of every member of the families of the fallen and for the families to see each other once a year.

Carmella LaSpada, executive director of the White House Commission on Remembrance, said families came from as far away as California at their own expense for the reception and ceremony. "Families came from 18 states," she noted. Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md., also were invited, she said.

"I really can't thank the ambassador and the people of Kuwait enough, because they put their words of gratitude into action," LaSpada said. "And that says it all, because without them we couldn't touch the lives of these families and the children and let them know that they and their loved ones are not forgotten."

Among the families traveling to Washington for the reception and ceremony was Richmond, Va., native Peggy Green, the mother of Marine Reserve Lance Cpl. Troy Gregory, 20, who was killed in Iraq on Feb. 26, 1991. He died two days before the end of the six-week air, ground and naval campaign against military and industrial targets in Iraq. With her was Gregory's daughter, Troy Denise Gregory, who wasn't yet born when her father was killed. The girl's mother, Adrienne Wald of Virginia Beach, Va., also was at the reception, as was Gregory's brother, Chance Gregory Green of Richmond.

Green said she's pleased with the reception and ceremony sponsored by the Kuwaiti Embassy and White House Commission on Remembrance. "But they went a step further two years after Tony was killed," Green noted. "Some of the families were invited to Kuwait. At that time I was still deeply into my grieving period. But after making that trip and meeting the people, and seeing what purpose it was, started a healing.

"I'm appreciative that they do what they do in memory of all the deceased of the Gulf War," Green continued. "I'll come to the reception and ceremony as long as they're given. I've only missed three since they started in 1992."

Green said her son was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

"I feel he was a good person. But sometimes I get sad. I feel grateful that they have something like this that we could come to for everybody that died," said 13-year-old Troy Denise, who was named after her father. "And we can go to see his grave at Arlington Cemetery every year."

Kyle Anderson, 14, was 9 months old when his father, Army helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anderson, was killed in a Black Hawk helicopter accident during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. A member of the Junior ROTC at Clarksville (Tenn.) High School, Anderson said his father was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Decked out in his Junior ROTC uniform, Anderson said, "I'm glad this reception and ceremony is happening, because I get to come and be with other kids who lost their parents in war defending this country and other countries as well. I feel proud that my father was killed defending Kuwait and the USA."

The high school freshman said he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

William Connor, whose son, Navy pilot Lt. Patrick Connor, was lost on a combat mission off the coast of Kuwait, spoke at the event.

"The strong relationship between the people of Kuwait and United States is reinforced each year by these ceremonies of remembrance," Connor said. "Each family can relate a different story about their loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Our son, Patrick, was a 25-year-old naval aviator whose plane was shot down off Falaka Island on Feb. 2, 1991." His plane has never been found, but his body was later recovered from the water, he said.

"So each of us are united with the people of Kuwait by blood and tears -- the blood of our loved ones mixed with that of the citizens of Kuwait who were killed in the invasion and war," Connor continued. "Our tears for loved ones lost mixed with the tears of Kuwaitis who also lost loved ones, the elements which provide a special bond between our two countries.

"Our hearts ache, as does yours, for he loss of so many Kuwaiti hostages taken and not returned alive," he said. "We stand hand-in-hand for the freedom of all people, and shall never forget."