KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait - Saud Al Zaid remembers vividly the night he learned his country had been attacked. Attending college in the United States, Al Zaid, a Kuwaiti, said he didn’t know for sure whether it was an invasion or revolution when he was told there were tanks in the streets of Kuwait City. Frantically calling his parents back in his home country, he soon learned the truth from his father. Iraqi forces had invaded and occupied his country.
Wishing to aid in the liberation and hoping to find his parents, the invasion began an emotional journey for Al Zaid. After volunteering as an interpreter for the U.S. military and attending a brief basic training program, he said goodbye to his pregnant wife, and left the U.S. to join coalition forces preparing to liberate his country.
Al Zaid joined two other Kuwaitis to recount their story of attending college in the United States and working with the U.S. military during the liberation of Kuwait to a packed auditorium of servicemembers, State Department employees and Kuwaiti civilians at an event commemorating the liberation, Feb. 18, in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Liberation Day in Kuwait, observed on Feb. 26, will mark the 23rd anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
Al Zaid said the event was the first time he has spoken about his experiences during the Gulf War.
“For me it’s very hard to talk about a subject like this. It’s very emotional and it was kept, for the past 23 years, in my heart,” he said. “I never revealed it, and I never spoke about it, but I felt for a moment that I owe it to the people of the U.S., to our people and the younger generations to know what [the United States] has done for my country.”
The event was held for Kuwaiti students enrolled in the English Access Microscholarship Program, a two-year English language program funded by the U.S. Department of State, which is designed for Kuwaiti school children between 13 and 15 years old. The event was attended by Matthew H. Tueller, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait.
Lt. Col. Michael Feeley, Army attaché for the United States in Kuwait, said the event was a great opportunity for the students in the Access program to meet these Kuwaitis and hear their important stories.
“The Access program is a great way to connect Kuwaitis with Americans, but our relationship with Kuwait that began back in the early 1900’s, with the founding of the American Hospital here in Kuwait,” he said. “It has continued on after the liberation with the U.S. military working hand-in-hand with our Kuwaiti partners on a regular basis.”
Feeley said it is always positive experience when he gets to talk to Kuwaitis, especially the generation that was here during the liberation, because they are always very thankful.
“It’s always nice for us to hear, as American service members serving abroad, that the people appreciate the sacrifice [service members] make,” he said. “I hope [the kids] walk away with a great appreciation for the Kuwaitis who came before them and the cooperation that the Kuwaitis and the U.S. had in securing the freedom of Kuwait and maintaining that great relationship as we go forward.”
Sawsan Al Hussain, training coordinator at American-Mideast Educational and Training Services, a nonprofit organization out of Washington, D.C., that implements the Access program, said the event was important because a lot of the students were born after the 1990’s so this was a good chance to hear more about their country.
“They need to learn about their culture, their county’s history and about the countries that supported them during the invasion,” she said. “They need to know that if it wasn’t for those that helped this country, they would not be living freely.”
After making it through the liberation of Kuwait and an emotional reunion with his parents, Al Zaid said he returned to his wife happy in the knowledge that his child would have the opportunity to live in a free Kuwait.
Now that he has finally spoken about the events he had held inside for so long, Al Zaid said he will be more open to talking about his experience in the future because of how important it is for Kuwaitis to remember, not just on Liberation Day, the sacrifices made by those involved in the conflict.
“It has to be continuous, people tend to forget, and it’s good to every once in a while bring these events to the public and be reminded what happened,” he said. “Believe me; every Kuwaiti has something in their heart for the United States.”