KUWAIT CITY - Twenty five years after Desert Storm, Americans and Kuwaitis are pausing to reflect on the role the coalition played in Kuwait's liberation and are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to safety and security in the region.
On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait. Following the initial invasion, the U.S. led efforts to form a multinational coalition to work with the United Nations Security Council to help liberate Kuwait. Coalition forces began mobilizing in nearby Saudi Arabia in response to the invasion.
The multinational force included 38 other countries from around the world; including Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Saddam's aggression continued as he refused to remove his forces from Kuwait. On Jan. 17, 1991, U.S. and coalition forces began an air campaign to protect the Arabian Peninsula and secure Kuwait's sovereignty.
Within 24 hours coalition forces controlled the airspace over Kuwait. In an attempt at retaliation, Saddam launched missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Hours after the air campaign began, former President George H. W. Bush gave a speech describing the U.S.-led coalition's efforts to liberate Kuwait from Saddam's regime.
"Just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait," said Bush. "Our objectives are clear: Saddam Hussein's forces will leave Kuwait. The legitimate government of Kuwait will be restored to its rightful place, and Kuwait will once again be free. Iraq will eventually comply with all relevant United Nations resolutions, and then, when peace is restored, it is our hope that Iraq will live as a peaceful and cooperative member of the family of nations, thus enhancing the security and stability of the Gulf."
On Feb. 24, 1991, the coalition's ground assault began. Within four days of the assault Saddam's forces were driven from Kuwait and the occupation was over.
Recently, some U.S. service members shared their experiences from the liberation.
Michael Hightower, a former armor crew member of the 2nd Armor Division, reflected on the way Kuwaitis showed their appreciation after the liberation.
"(The Kuwaitis) were very grateful," said Hightower. "They came to us in the streets and thanked us. Being a 20 year-old at the time going through a war, and actually seeing those we helped, I felt really good about what we had done."
Command Sgt. Maj. Dannie Bergeron, also shared an experience he had when he initially arrived to support the liberation efforts.
As a newly promoted sergeant, Bergeron was assigned to the 812th Medical Detachment Air Ambulance at the King Khalid Medical Center in Saudi Arabia.
"I was terrified when I first landed at the KKMC," said Bergeron. "We circled around looking for a place to land and set up base camp. There was nothing in the area but a clamshell hangar. As soon as we landed, a Scud missile flew overhead and was intercepted by a Patriot missile just a few hundred feet above us. I saw it tumble and impact the ground behind us and thought: this is not going to be fun."
During the liberation, Kuwaiti's and U.S. Soldiers fought side by side for the freedom of Kuwait. One of these U.S. Soldiers, also a Kuwaiti citizen, Dr. Bader Nasser Al Hajji, attended one of the remembrance events.
"When I was in the United States, Iraq took over Kuwait and I said to myself, 'I can't forgive myself if I don't volunteer,'" said Nasser Al Hajji. "For me it's an honor (to have served with the U.S.), because, the U.S. is one of the major forces that liberated Kuwait."
To mark the liberation, Kuwait's Ministry of Education, along with the U.S. Embassy - Kuwait and U.S. Army Central, held events around Kuwait City to reflect and remember the sacrifices made by the coalition in the early months of 1991.
One of the first remembrance events was at Fatima Bint Al-Waleed Girl's High School. Principal Khaleda Al-Shurai'an said it was important for her students to remember the U.S.-Kuwaiti partnership and the shared history between the two countries.
"Since the liberation, the U.S. and Kuwait have had a great relationship," she said. "We are great friends and (this friendship) shows in all aspects from commercial to educational. (Our school) wanted to show appreciation for the role that the U.S. played to liberate our country, as well as the role that the U.S. government played in bringing together the coalition countries."
USARCENT, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy-Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people, will continue building a lasting partnership dedicated to the safety and security of the people in the region.