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'Storm' of war echoes for Gulf vets in Grout exhibit

Posted by Pat Kinney on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Grout Museum District and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum have always been about giving veterans, specifically Iowa veterans their due.

Five years ago, the museum did an exhibit honoring Vietnam veterans, planned by Vietnam veterans. Three years ago, an exhibit opened honoring Korean War veterans, again, planned by a Korean War veterans.

Each conflict and era occupies a permanent part of the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. But every few years the museum has chosen to pull out and highlight a specific era or conflict.

That's the case again now -- with an exhibit marking the 30th anniversary of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, "Desert Storm 30 Years Later," open now through Aug. 7. It was planned by a committee of local veterans of that conflict.

Some 3,000 Iowans served in the Gulf War, including Reserve, National Guard and active-duty personnel. Locally, the included Delta Battery of the Second Battalion, 14 Marine regiment. Also, many local law enforcement officers served in military police units, guarding enemy prisoners during the conflict.

The war was comparatively brief, from the troop buildup that began as Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 - to the conclusion of the ground war at the end of February. The entire combat phase of the operation was five weeks -- shorter than some entire battles of World War II. But combat is combat, and the stress and after affects are still felt by many Gulf War veterans. Johns Hopkins institute in Baltimore reports that one third of Gulf War veterans suffer from what is commonly known as "Gulf War syndrome." Symptoms may include fatigue, muscular or skeletal pain, skin rashes and cognitive difficulties. They are caused by multiple factors, including exposure to chemical warfare agents, oil well fires and post-traumatic stress. While the war was over in a matter of months, it has had enduring impact for those who were there. Their service and sacrifice must not be forgotten. Nor should our continuing presence in the region, where a new generation of men and women have served and continue to serve.

The exhibit opened Dec. 15 and runs through early August. Admission is free to all Gulf War veterans courtesy of grants from Humanities Iowa and the American Legion of Iowa. Additional sponsors include Peterson Contractors Inc. of Reinbeck, American Pattern & CNC Works of Waterloo, Sons of American Legion Post 138 and Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, himself a Gulf War veteran. Townsquare Media is our media sponsor and KWWL-TV news anchor Ron Steele provided additional footage from his news coverage from the Middle East during the war, in addition to local coverage from Iowa newspapers.

Gulf War veterans serving on the exhibit planning committee included Kris Jones, Ed McFarland, Jeffrey Schmidt and Michael Young. We are honored by and grateful for their service, and that off all veterans who served - and continue to serve our community, state and country after their time in the military ends.

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