National Guard unit to hold reunion for Desert Storm anniversary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – Lt. Wendell Albert never thought he would have to go to war – but on Nov. 29, 1990, he and the 133 other soldiers of Vidalia’s 1087th Transportation Company got the call.

&uot;I remember grown men crying,&uot; said Albert, now commander of the unit. &uot;We were shocked. I&160;never thought I would have to go to fight in a foreign country. … I&160;asked God, ‘Why us?’ &uot;

But on Saturday, Albert and other members of the unit will gather at the National Guard Armory near Vidalia for a celebration – a reunion marking the 10th anniversary of their participation in Operation Desert Storm. The event, which starts at 2 p.m., will feature a keynote speech by Donnie Verucchi of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Natchez, said Sgt. Kathryn Brooks, another organizer of the event.

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The event was planned earlier this year after Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau handed down an order that such reunions be held statewide this year.

&uot;And I’m glad, because in the past they didn’t honor veterans right away like that,&uot; Albert said. &uot;It’s a time to come together and share some memories. We don’t want to wait any longer, because three (unit members) have died already.&uot;

Of those who went to Saudi Arabia, only about 20 still serve in the 1087th – including Albert, who drives four-and-a-half hours from his current home in Beaumont, Texas to attend monthly and yearly drills.

Albert remembers the shock he felt as he was being airlifted into the Middle East in January 1991 with his unit. &uot;We had to stay in the air 30 extra minutes because they (Iraqis) were shooting Scuds (missiles),&uot; he said.

When the ground war started, Albert and two other soldiers from the unit were randomly picked as part of an advance party that would venture into Iraq at the start of the ground war that February. &uot;You really had to pray, because you didn’t know what to expect, whether they were shooting gas or what,&uot; he said.

Both the stress of war and the fun the soldiers engaged in during off-peak times – the Vidalia unit even won a volleyball tournament – united the unit.

&uot;Mainly, it brought us closer together because we knew we had to work together to come back home alive,&uot; he said.

Albert’s service in the Persian Gulf came to an abrupt end in April when his younger brother was killed in a car accident near Fayette and Albert returned for his funeral. The rest of unit returned two months later.

And in the decade since, many members of the unit have retired or moved away to different cities and states, but Albert has stayed with the unit, even given the commute to Vidalia.

&uot;My wife asked me, ‘Why don’t you transfer over here?’,&uot; he said. &uot;But the military teaches you integrity, honesty and loyalty, and I’m loyal to the unit. I would risk my life for them.&uot;

Having spent 16 years in the Guard already, Albert can retire in another four years, and he wants to stay with the 1087th so he can retire from that unit.

Sgt. 1st Class Ben Tucker of Natchez said he hopes the reunion will bring current and former unit members closer together and help recruit new soldiers to the Guard.

&uot;I hope it will allow us to reestablish contact with people we haven’t seen in a while, because a lot of us have lost contact with each other,&uot;&160;Tucker said.

&uot;To be able to go back and see everybody, to shake hands and talk about the good old days, that’s a blessing,&uot; Albert added.