Saturday marks 20 years since the start of Desert Storm, the military effort to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
It was a war with new technology and sparkling images shown nightly on TV. At the time, it seemed like a quick victory, but now, as American troops continue to fight in the region, Desert Storm seems like a long time ago.
Lt. Col. James "Chainsaw" McCullough, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), has vivid memories of the war. Just five minutes into Operation Desert storm, he was flying his F-15 E Strike Eagle into Iraq and dropping bombs.
“They never saw us coming,” he said. “I don’t forget any of it. I remember it all like it was yesterday.”
But it wasn't yesterday. It was nearly 20 years ago. McCullough retired as a Lt. Colonel.
“When we were in fighter training, we talked about the old Vietnam fighter pilots,” he said. “Well, that was in ’85 and Vietnam was only 10 years old. Now, as you look back and talk about the old guys from Desert Storm, that’s this bald guy right here.”
Before he was bald, McCullough was a hot shot young fighter pilot, featured on local TV, ready to be a warrior. But the missions made him think about his role in the effort.
“The thing that I remember the most was after a combat mission we blew up this wooden barracks and probably killed hundreds of people. And I begin thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re killing all these people,’ and I began to feel kind of bad,” McCullough said. “I went and checked my mail, and I had gotten a ‘Precious Moments’ card from my son, and it said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they should be children of God.’ And it just gave me a whole new perspective, not that we were at war, but we were keeping the peace.”
His son, then 5 years old, is now in the Army and just finished his own tour in Iraq. McCullough said he finds it hard to believe his own son fights in the same theater.
“I got really close to God over there. When you have a few near-death experiences, you get close to God,” he said.