Only four days into the ground war -- with the Iraqi army on the run -- Sgt. Kevin Gregory and his squad from the Army's "Tiger" Brigade were stunned when the orders came to cease fire.
The platoon sergeants gathered the soldiers near the Kuwaiti city of Al Jahra and told them that they would advance no farther. The Persian Gulf War was over.
"When we stopped, we were ticked off," recalled Gregory, 38, who lives in Anne Arundel County. "We wanted to know why. We wanted to see a good end."
Now President Bush is promising to deliver that "good end," threatening an attack that would force out Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and rid that country of its weapons of mass destruction.
Gregory and many Gulf War veterans, though, greet the prospect with decidedly mixed feelings. Although many are eager for troops to finish the job they started, they worry about the cost of returning to the Middle Eastern nation, which is believed by the U.S. government to be armed with chemical and biological weapons.
"I'm kind of upset we have to go back," Gregory said. "I wish we'd done it right the first time."
While history remembers the Gulf War as all "smart bombs" and sorties -- surgical strikes with few casualties on the battlefield -- veterans recall the thousands of men and women who came home wounded, physically or emotionally.
"On this Veterans Day, we need to remember the price of this war is going to be more than rebuilding Iraq," said Stephen Robinson, a former Army Special Forces soldier who served in Iraq and is now executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center in Silver Spring. "It's going to be upholding our promise to take care of the soldiers who go there to fight."
Gregory was seriously wounded during his service in the war as an infantry squad leader with the 2nd Armored Division's Tiger Brigade. The day after fighting stopped, a truck he was in ran over a land mine. The blast shattered his feet and ankles and left him hospitalized for more than two months. He now wears a leg brace to walk.
Despite his injuries, Gregory said he supports going back to Iraq. "I wish I were in good enough physical condition to go myself," he added. Gregory's wife remains on active duty with the Army, and he worries that she might be sent to the region. "I don't want to see her go," he said.
The war this time, he fears, will be much costlier for U.S. troops than the 1991 Gulf War, which claimed 148 Americans killed in action. "Now [Hussein] knows what to expect," he said. "He knows how we fight. I don't think it'll be as easy this time."
Some veterans worry about being bogged down in city-street fighting in Baghdad, a scenario the Defense Department hopes to avoid. The gravest threat, others say, is that Hussein will make full use of chemical and biological weapons, unlike during the last war. "We've basically given Saddam no option," Robinson said. "He's going to use everything he has to kill as many as he can."
Kirt Love served during the war with the Army's 141st Signal Battalion, part of the U.S. "left hook" aimed at destroying the elite Iraqi Republican Guard. Like Gregory, he was upset when the attack abruptly ended after the Iraqi army abandoned Kuwait.
"I was ready to drive to Baghdad myself and take out Saddam," said Love, 38, a resident of Mount Jackson in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. "All the troops were angry. We all felt betrayed."
Now he is an activist on the issue of illnesses suffered by Gulf War veterans and is adamantly opposed to U.S. ground forces going back for another war. He is worried that gas masks and other protective gear issued to troops have not been adequately upgraded.
"Our government knows our equipment is not up to standards," Love said. "This isn't going to be the same as before. This is going to be a bloody affair. They haven't shown us that they have learned anything."
Love suffers from migraine headaches, respiratory difficulties and nerve damage, problems he attributes to his service in the theater. He co-founded the Desert Storm Battlefield Registry, an advocacy group trying to bring attention to the unexplained illnesses reported by thousands of Gulf War veterans. The causes have been variously attributed to vaccines given to protect the troops, exposure to chemical agents released at depots, oil fires, battle stress or depleted uranium used in some U.S. armaments.
Gregory works in the Washington office of Disabled American Veterans, and many of the soldiers he deals with fought in the Gulf War. "I think people tend to overlook what happened there," he said.
Many are suffering orthopedic problems, others have chronic fatigue syndrome and others are experiencing post-traumatic stress, he said.
Soldiers who were sent to the Saudi Arabian desert during the buildup to the war, including Gregory, had no way of knowing that the war would end so quickly with so few casualties. "We were scared," Gregory said. "There was constant fear for your life. There's quite a few Gulf War veterans who are experiencing problems."
Robinson's last assignment before retiring from the military last year was in the office of the secretary of defense, where he did research on Gulf War illnesses. He was disillusioned by what he saw. "It seemed that everything we produced leaned away from helping the veterans," he said.
"Gulf War veterans were treated as if they were crazy and didn't have real problems," added Robinson, who served with the 10th Special Forces Group in northern Iraq assisting Kurds immediately after the ground war ended. "Now science is catching up."
If the United States sends troops to fight Iraq again, Robinson said, it must ensure that they are fully protected against chemical and biological hazards. "I served 20 years. I loved my military career," he said. "But I don't want to see guys make the same mistakes we made."
Gulf War veterans will be among those marching this morning along Constitution Avenue in the "March to Remember" -- an event sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America -- as a show of unity among veterans past, present and future, Robinson said.