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    Florida National Guard honors 25th Gulf War Anniversary Veterans reunite together in shared experiences

    Florida National Guard honors 25th Gulf War Anniversary  Veterans reunite together in shared experiences

    Courtesy Photo | Maj. Gen. (Ret) Marianne-Mathewson Chapman and her daughter Helena Chapman, interview...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Spencer Rhodes 

    107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    STARKE, Fla. - As 11 a.m. approached, Soldiers and friends embraced excitedly and exchanged boisterous greetings with friends they hadn’t seen in many years, as over 100 people traveling from all over Florida came to honor the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm. The ceremony, hosted by the Florida Army National Guard at the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, was an opportunity to officially commemorate the anniversary and the new war memorial at the Camp Blanding Museum, and a place for Gulf War veterans to come and share common experiences.
    Florida State Representative Jimmie T. Smith, representing District 34, and chair of the Veterans of Military Affairs Subcommittee, who served in Operation Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne Division, pointed out the opportunity for reflection that came with the ceremony and the new Gulf War monument.
    “It gives you a chance to really reflect on a part of history and your part in history. So when you come here and see the changes of the world and you can know that you were a part of that, that means a lot,” said Smith. “To know that you can also reflect back on the fact that you stood for liberty and stood for your country and actually projected force for America across the world; I mean that’s a very big thing to have, to have an event like this to remember that. A lot of the time we forget the effect we as individuals have had.”
    A figure known by many both present and past within the Florida National Guard was yesterday’s keynote speaker for the ceremony, Brig. Gen. (Ret) Spessard Boatwright, a man who was a leader and role model for many Soldiers over the course of his career.
    For Operation Desert Storm, an era marked by an all-volunteer force, implementing Guard and Reserve forces would serve as that connection to mainstream America. Boatwright, who served in the Gulf War as the commander of the 202nd Medical Group, recalled how former Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Creighton Abrams, expressed his wish to never send the nation to war without the support of mainstream America, something Abrams felt contributed to a national cultural disconnect throughout the nation in regards to war.
    “Desert Storm was the first time since WWII that we had a major mobilization of Guard or Reserve nationwide. So it was a real chance to be involved and to be a part of a retooling; a relearning experience for the entire nation as to how to gear up and go to war.”
    The Gulf War not only fostered a connection between the American people and the military, it began a history of rapport between people who had to leave their families and homes to support their nation.
    Maj. Gen. (Ret) Marianne Mathewson-Chapman also deployed with the 202nd Medical Group as a nurse in the medical corps. Like many women who serve, she left behind her two young daughters and her husband who was retired military. Chapman’s experiences, despite having occurred over a decade prior to 9/11, strongly mirror the same struggles and experiences of citizen-Soldiers who deploy today. These struggles are shared not just from the perspective of Service members but as family members who miss being able to participate in those special life events.
    “My husband was retired, so he was there to be the mom for the girls while I was gone; very supportive,” said Chapman. “I used to get care packages from all of them; they would have a piano recital and he would tape it on a little disc and send it to me so I could listen to them play.”
    Col. Daniel “Matt” Johnson, Camp Blanding Joint Training Center post commander and host for yesterday’s ceremony, made a point to thank the Soldiers who served in the Gulf War. One-by-one, he called out each unit’s name that deployed to Desert Storm asking those who served in that unit to stand so the audience could recognize them with applause.
    The ceremony concluded with retired Command Sgt Maj. (Ret) Gary Wingard who performed an acoustic rendition of God Bless the USA as a final tribute, before former and current Soldiers dispersed to their respective unit reunions on Camp Blanding.



    Date Taken: 04.03.2016
    Date Posted: 04.03.2016 12:04
    Story ID: 194199
    Location: STARKE , FL, US 

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