"Big Red One" Soldiers and veterans from Desert Storm met for reveille and then ran through a simulated berm on Custer Hill during the 26th Anniversary of the Breaching of the Berm event Feb. 24 at Fort Riley.
Often referred to as the first Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm began as a response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Rhame, "on Feb. 24, 1991, two brigades of the Big Red One led the Army's charged into Iraq by breaching the fortified 'Saddam Line' spearheading the coalitions' armored attack on Saddam Hussein's forces," said Robert Smith, director, Fort Riley museums, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
This year a representative berm was set up along Normandy Drive which consisted of concertina wire coiled along the road and between buildings with a sign posted at the berm's entrance that read "Welcome to Iraq; Courtesy the Big Red One." Sounds of rifle fire played over speakers while Soldiers ran through the berm's opening where veterans stood and cheered on Big Red One men and women.
Junction City mayor and retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Phyllis Fitzgerald ran through the berm with Soldiers in her Desert Battle Dress Uniform. Fitzgerald was stationed at Fort Riley from 1989-1993 while she was an intelligence analyst with Higher Headquarters Command, 1st Inf. Div., she said.
Both Fitzgerald and her husband deployed to Desert Storm, then after 21 years of service retired in Leavenworth, Kan., but came back to Junction City because of their strong ties to, and fond feelings for, the area and its people. "We went to war with the Big Red One," she said. "This is our home."
"When we actually reach back and talk to previous generations and talk to them about their time in combat, it brings home to our Soldiers today exactly what it means to be in the 1st Infantry Division," said Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley acting senior commander.
Capt. Katherine LaPonte, commander of 1st Engineer Battalion's rear detachment, said Soldiers need to stay connected to and be aware of the battles of the past.
"To know that there are big things that happened in the past, even though they were not a part of it then, they are part of carrying on the history and the lineage of those who fought before them," she said.
Pfc. Jake Meier, air traffic controller, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div., remembers stories of victory being told by his dad, a Desert Storm veteran who was with an expeditionary unit in the Air Force.
His dad would say, "We won, and we won by a lot." Meier says he enjoyed the run and talking to veterans. He looked forward to calling his dad later to tell him of the day's events.
"It's neat to see how fondly the older generations look down at the newer ones," Meier said.