theme: first gulf war

Royal Marine Commandos patrol the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort, an effort after the Gulf War to establish a Kurdish enclave to protect them from Saddam’s retribution. With the US originally disinclined to act, the operation began under the British, originally known as Operation Haven.

(Royal Marines)

I was six during the First Gulf War. My whole class wrote letters to our armed forces who were deployed in the Middle East and I was one of three students to receive one back.

My soldier was named Billy. He was from Virginia and had two little girls near my age. He talked about being homesick and how much our support meant to them all. From his replies, it appears I prattled on about my family and how I liked to play with Barbies, but he was always kind and interested in what I had to say. I ended up with three letters in total - three letters I’ve read at least a dozen times in the intervening years and still have tucked away in storage.

I think about Billy sometimes. I wonder if he made it safely home and what he’s doing now. I wonder what his girls have grown to be and if he has grandchildren. I wonder if he ever thinks about the little Midwestern blonde who wrote to him all those years ago - did he keep my letters as preciously as I kept his?

I don’t expect ever to find him. I don’t even know his last name or where I would begin to search. But maybe it’s better to simply leave the past in the past.

Billy, wherever you are, thank you.


On January 12, 1991, the US Congress authorized the use of military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait during the Gulf War.  Up until that point, US military forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia wholly as a defensive coalition (Operation Desert Shield, beginning August 1, 1990).  Once military force was authorized (Operation Desert Storm), it was only a matter of days (January 17) before the first aerial bombardment by the Coalition forces on Iraqi Air Force and anti-aircraft facilities, and roughly six weeks after that before Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, ending the war.  Interestingly, this conflict is known both as the First Gulf War (as opposed to the 2003 Iraq War) and the Second Gulf War (as opposed to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s).  Also interestingly, there is some (heated) debate about calling that gulf the Persian Gulf, largely by residents who live on the southwestern shores of the water (and beyond) who believe it makes more sense to call it the Arabian Gulf.  Oh, geographical etymology, you continue to confound!

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: May 2, 2000
From: Escondido, CA
Designed by: Howard Paine
Illustrated by: Drew Struzan
SC #3191b

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: July 2, 1991
From: Washington, DC
Designed by: Jack Williams
SC #2551

In November 1990, facing an American public reluctant to go to war, a [CBS News/New York Times Monthly] poll was run that asked: If it’s demonstrated that Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons, would you support a direct U.S. military intervention to prevent his use of them? And suddenly, instead of opposing military action, the public overwhelmingly supported it. That, then, became the theme. Saddam Hussein became demonized, a Satan, worse than Hitler, threatening all of Europe, and soon US forces attacked him and his country.
—  Michael Parenti, ‘Terrorism and Super-patriotism’