Remembering December for a different reason
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
When the calendar turns to December, most people’s thoughts turn to Christmas.
I’m not one of those most people. My shopping list is not long and there are no family gatherings to plan or attend, so I wait for my Christmas reflections along about Dec. 23.
Occasionally, the flipping of the calendar to December does bring back thoughts in a different direction.
I was in one of my “Whitney Houston moods” the other night, calling up “I Will Always Love You” and her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl following the start of the Persian Gulf War. It is often that a pop star can turn the national anthem into a Top-10 hit, which is exactly what she did.
Even though it has been over 20 years ago since Whitney nailed the national anthem at the Super Bowl, each time I play it, it still sends chills down my spine. Nobody ever has or will do it better. It was exactly what the nation needed at this time.
The Persian Gulf War brings back other memories, most of which I never will forget.
During that time, I was editing the Washington Evening Journal. Washington was home to the 134th National Guard medical ambulance company and the 877th Army Reserve company. Both were called up, the 134th going to Kuwait and the 877th activated to serve in Washington state.
Washington may have been one of the few communities in the United States to have two military companies activated and certainly was the smallest community to bid farewell to soldiers.
War was new to us back then. We were born too late to remember World War II or the Korean War.
It was also something foreign to the Guard troops mobilizing in the National Guard Armory.
I covered the preparations. To this day, it ranks second on the most poignant story I’ve done in over 40 years of reporting, topped only by the abduction and murder of Anna Marie Emry of Brighton.
It was the faces that made it a tear-jerker. War was new to these people, too, but instead of reading about it in the newspaper or seeing it on television, they were going to be in the middle of it.
I saw young mothers and fathers cleaning out their lockers and stuffing belongings in duffle bags, making out their wills and granting power of attorney.
You didn’t have to ask them how they felt, you could see it in their eyes. They were fearful. Someone once said never fear the unknown but if you are flying into the heart of the unknown, how can’t you be fearful?
They talked about those they were leaving behind, wondering if they would ever see them again. They mentioned missing their children’s birthdays, their anniversaries and other important family dates. They spoke in a low, somber tone, some wiping away tears as they spoke.
As an interviewer, it was difficult. You could give them hope, and they nodded when you did. However, I doubt any of them really heard those words of encouragement and support.
Washington residents lined Washington Street, holding signs of support, as the 134th exited for Ft. McCoy, Wis., for training. Then-Mayor Harvey Holden, addressing the troops at the ceremony, said “It is with a tear in our eye as we say farewell.”
Although the war had everyone riveted to news sources, it was a time when our nation was at its best. Patriotism has never been higher, the military never more appreciated.
Members of the 134th were able to come home for a few days so they could spend Christmas with their families, but I remember some saying that it was even more difficult to leave the second time.
The good news is that all who left returned home six months or so later to an even better reception.
This time, smiles replaced tears and any tears that were evident were tears of joy.