A Time for Coming, and Going, Home : Orange County: Kuwaiti family is ready to return while relatives of soldiers hope for reunions soon. But some reservists are still shipping out.
Mothers, wives, brothers, girlfriends--all waited anxiously Thursday for word on when the U.S. troops might begin their victorious trek home from the Persian Gulf. But for Faisal Alhamad and his family, all that mattered was getting back to the place of war.
His home in Kuwait city, Alhamad acknowledges, “could have been destroyed, looted, burned, anything--I don’t know.” His family and his wife’s are also a question mark. They have had no contact with relatives since the week of Iraq’s August invasion.
A real estate developer in Kuwait, Alhamad was vacationing with his family in Newport Beach, as he has done each year since 1986, when Kuwait was invaded. They have stayed here since then. Now, he eyes the return to his homeland with an almost wistful optimism, brimming with hope for a region free from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s grasp.
“Things are going to be very bright,” the 48-year-old Alhamad said, adding that he hopes to return to Kuwait after his two older boys, 13 and 15, finish the school year in Corona del Mar. “We’ll rebuild (Kuwait)--not just economically and socially, but politically as well.”
And what should become of Hussein? “Get killed!” says his wife, Awatif, almost instinctively. Nothing short of his overthrow will keep Kuwait safe, they say.
The Alhamads and their three sons had scheduled several weeks ago a lunch Thursday at El Adobe in San Juan Capistrano with a parapsychology club from Leisure World.
But what was to have been a noontime discussion on a conquered land instead turned into “victory day,” as Alhamad said when he arrived at one of former President Richard M. Nixon’s old haunts.
The Leisure World diners, a few with tears in their eyes, listened to the Alhamads sing the Kuwaiti national anthem, then joined in for a rendition of “God Bless America.” They accepted “Free Kuwait” sweat shirts as gifts from the family--now happily passe.
And they listened as the father declared: “The nightmare is over.”
The nightmare is over, too, for Kathy Collier and other Orange County relatives of troops in the Persian Gulf. The big question that remains now is: When will they return?
“I’m really confident that it’s over,” said Collier, the Buena Park mother of a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division and the organizer of an Anaheim military support group.
“We’re all already thinking about welcome-home plans--banners and a few more yellow ribbons and parades,” she said. “And some of us are hearing that their husbands could be coming home soon.”
Collier said she’s even making plans to buy a Christmas tree for the holiday celebration that her son missed this year while in the Gulf. “I’m just really anxious to get a phone call from him,” she said.
One group that won’t be coming home any time soon is the 6632nd Port Security Detachment out of Irvine, a group of about 60 military police reservists.
The men and women of 6632nd prepared to leave today for a year of active duty in North Carolina--as one of the very last reserve units from this region called into active duty as part of Operation Desert Storm.
Some were glad to be avoiding the war. But for others the timing of their deployment, coming just after the cease-fire, was clearly a disappointment.
“If you’re gonna be called up,” said Cpl. Dyan Wallen, 23, a college student from Asuza, “you want to go over there (to the Gulf) when the war’s actually going on. . . . Our lives are being interrupted as it is--so you might as well be where the action’s at.”
The unit, made up largely of law enforcement officers from Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, will be responsible for maintaining dock security for incoming and outgoing vessels in North Carolina.
“The job still needs to get done--and that is the mission of this unit, whether it is in peacetime or wartime,” said detachment commander 1st Lt. Roy Susuico a computer technician in the San Diego area.
Lt. Col. Stan Kensic, public affairs officer for the 63rd Army Reserve Command in Los Alamitos, which oversees the 6632nd and all other Army reservists in Southern California and parts of Arizona and Nevada, said he wasn’t sure if the cease-fire would mean the detachment wouldn’t have to go to North Carolina.
Kensic said he had called his headquarters to ask: ‘ “They still on?’ After all, things are a hell of a lot different now than they were two days ago,” the colonel said. But he found out the unit was in fact moving out.
“The military is a big machine and once trips are planned, it’s hard to stop on a dime,” he said.
If the cease-fire wasn’t enough to change the military’s plans for local reservists Thursday, it didn’t sway anti-war protesters in Santa Ana either.
Melissa Morrow and several other protesters from the Orange County Coalition for Peace in the Middle East got some odd stares from passers-by at the Federal Building in Santa Ana on Thursday morning as they staged an anti-war “guerrilla theater” to dramatize the plight of Iraqi women and children who they say have been hurt and killed by U.S. bombs.
The point, said Morrow, a 25-year-old secretary who lives in Costa Mesa, was to show that, war or no war, the destruction for those women and children remains.
“It’s not over for these people,” said Morrow.