By Pat Dooris 3-19-07
Its an interesting question eh? Where were you when the war began? Four years later its become such a daily part of our lives---reported every night on the news---its impossible to escape.
But what about the day it began? Remember that? I doubt whether many people do. It was just another day for most.
But not for me.
I remember exactly how this day began.
I woke up in the top bunk of a dark, grey room on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
I could tell, even with my ear plugs in ---a necessity for sleep---that the war had started. The ship's captain played Lee Greenwood's "Glad to be an American" over the Lincoln's tin sounding speaker system.
Photographer Rod Stevens and I were embeded with the navy on the Lincoln---the lead war ship in the Persian Gulf.
I had a special connection --- my brother Bill was an F-18 fighter pilot and the second in command of the "Stingers" squadron on the ship. It made access to the pilots easy and I enjoyed getting to know them.
But it also brought its share of terror. Each day I worried my brother would get shot down.
Fortunately that did not happen.
As I climbed out of bed with my three pilot roomates---we talked about what was happening. As I recall there was some confusion. The pilots had been secretly briefed that the air assault would happen a couple days later.
I think ---the first shots fired from our side were tomahawk missiles sent in to kill someone---Saddam perhaps---at a hide out.
My pilot roomates were eager to see action---most had never been in real combat.
They were worried too. We all were. We'd been told Saddam had lots and lots of missiles surrounding Baghdad--ready to shoot down any US planes that might come near. And we were drilled constantly about the dangers of chemical weapons. We practiced putting on gas masks and had to carry them with us at all times. It seems a bit much now, but at the time there was real concern that Iraq would launch missles with nerve gas at the carrier group.
That day aboard the Lincoln was similar to many others. The routine did not dramatically change.
But, the firing of the tomahawks brought a certainty that the action would soon begin. Over the previous weeks and months the men and women stationed on the Lincoln had grown restless. Their six month cruise---was extended and now nearing 9 months.
They wanted to do something---or go home.
A few days later, the jets from the Abraham Lincoln bombed Baghdad.
Four years ago seems like forever.
But some of the strong memories bring it back in an instant---like the noise of the ship---metal doors slamming on metal walls and echoing over metal hallways.
Movie night---Saturday---where some of the officers gathered for popcorn and non alcoholic beer to watch a show in a mess area.
Smoking a cigar with my brother on the flying bridge of the carrier---watching the oil wells burn off excess in the distance.
They are memories that mostly seem like a lifetime ago---a time when the Iraq war began.