‘I’m there running with them’
By KATHLEEN MELLEN, Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2003 -- NORTHAMPTON - When U.S. troops faced Iraqi soldiers in combat during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, Amherst resident Terrence D. Haynes was among them. And, he said, he feared for his life.
Now, watching the war in Iraq courtesy of "real-time" television, he says he painfully recalls what it was like.
"When you see them putting on their masks and running for the bunkers, that's what we did," said Haynes. During his six months in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Haynes said Scud missiles attacked his location 25 to 30 times.
"The stress took its toll. I felt the shaking of the Patriot missiles hitting the scuds. I felt the sonic boom," said Haynes, who teaches U.S. history at JFK Middle School
He said that now when he sees U.S. troops on TV running for cover, "I'm there running with them."
Haynes, 41, served from 1987 to 1991 as a specialist with the U.S. Army engineering branch. During the Gulf War, he was stationed in Saudi Arabia with an airborne topographical unit, "making secret maps of the war theater," he said.
"I know what the troops are going through and I support their efforts," said Haynes in an interview last week at the school.
Haynes said he feels enormous empathy for the U.S. troops, but is also concerned for the Iraqi people - and those in the Iraqi military.
"I'm for peace for everybody," said Haynes, who practices the Baha'i religion. Explaining his faith, he said, "Baha'i believes in the oneness of humanity and of world religions. We see people as individuals." Despite the fact that governments are at war, he said, "We are still one ... we are killing ourselves."
Guided by his faith and informed by his war experience, Haynes said he understands the agonizing dilemma for soldiers on both sides when faced with killing. "Life is sacred, but, in the military, it is your duty to serve," he said.
"No matter who is shot, we feel their anguish," said Haynes. "We are all human beings."
"When one dies, it breaks a chain. They are a father, brother, lover, husband. It has a huge ripple effect," Haynes said. "There are hundreds of chains being broken."
Haynes said even one death is too much. It is especially painful when a friend or loved one dies, he said. He knows: In 1991, his bunkmate in Saudi Arabia was killed in combat.
"I see (Iraqis) as human beings, with wants, fears, needs," said Haynes, adding that some portrayals in the U.S. of Iraqis as "one-sided cartoon characters" are designed to make it "easier to be OK with the bloodshed."
Two years ago, as the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War drew near, Haynes struggled to make sense of his own place in the conflict and wrote a book based on a journal he kept while in Saudi Arabia.
In the introduction to the book, "Desert Norm," he says his voice adds the perspective of "an educated black, low-ranking, enlisted soldier," to balance the history previously written largely by "the military's highest ranking officers."
He said this war "is not the people's fight -it is a fight among government leaders."
Just as U.S. troops want to return home, the Iraqi soldiers yearn for the same thing, he said. "They want to return to their families, too."
"They might have joined the military because they had no job opportunities, to further their education or for career opportunities," he said. "Now, they honor their job in the military, doing their duty - as a soldier does."
Haynes said he does not presume to second-guess President Bush and his military advisers. "I'm not sure that we have all the information. Do we really know what the situation is? I'm not really sure."
Haynes said he believes the president, who has the benefit of information from military and diplomatic advisers, is "trying to do the best for the country."
With the nation at war, he said supporting the troops is foremost in his mind.
For Haynes, that means prayer, "because prayer has power, I believe."
And, he said, messages of encouragement from home really help boost morale.
Kathleen Mellen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Copyright 2003, Daily Hampshire Gazette (North Hampton, MA, USA)
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