Gulf veterans meet for anniversary of war

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – A reunion at the Louisiana National Guard Armory in Vidalia Saturday was more than a chance to remember the 10th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War. Members of Vidalia’s 1087th Transportation Company who served in Operation Desert Storm enjoyed reminiscing and catching up with fellow soldiers, many of whom hadn’t seen each other since returning from the desert.

&uot;The 1087th is a family. It always has been one and it always will be one,&uot; said Lt. Wendell Albert, commander of the Vidalia unit.

About 130 members of the 1087th were deployed to Saudia Arabia on Nov. 29, 1990. Former President George Bush declared war on Iraq Jan. 17, 1991. Six weeks and 125 American casualties later, Kuwait was liberated. The day was Feb. 26, 1991.

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&uot;It will be a while before we see each other again, but once you’ve been in a war, you’re always brothers and sisters,&uot; Staff Sgt. Tim Smith, recruiter for the 1087th, told the gathering of veterans and their families.

Donnie Verucchi, Natchez Veterans of Foreign Wars and active lobbyist for veterans, was the guest speaker for the reunion.

A strong proponent of increased national security, Verucchi encouraged the crowd to join a veterans organization and become active in voicing veterans concerns.

He also commended them on their heroism in the Gulf War and their continued efforts to promote peace as &uot;citizen soldiers.&uot;

&uot;Guarding the gates of freedom is never an easy task,&uot; he said.

As part of the day’s formal ceremony, the families of three deceased members of the 1087th were presented with medallions.

Jason Dupree, Charles Williams and Vernon Smith have all died since returning from the war.

Sue Smith, Vernon’s widow, said she had prepared herself for what was sure to be an emotional day.

&uot;I just knew I was going to be crying all day,&uot; she said.

Gordon Hughes, a Gulf War veteran who has since retired from the 1087th, said he was surprised when he heard a local reunion was being formed.

&uot;I was really glad they had it,&uot; he said. &uot;I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in 10 years.&uot;

Brian Campbell also said he enjoyed seeing fellow soldiers and browsing through photo albums of their service in Saudia Arabia.

&uot;Each picture kind of tells its own story&uot; he said.

Patrick Mallory continues to serve in the 1087th and is in his fourteenth year in the National Guard.

&uot;We were pretty much all young single guys back then, and now we all have families and real jobs&uot; he said. &uot;It’s neat to see how everybody turned out.&uot;