The young men and women sat quietly on green bunks lining the inside of their hospital tent, stone-faced, listening to the words of President Bush coming by television from half a world away.

But when Bush praised all those serving throughout the Middle East, bringing the Congress to a minute-long standing ovation, smiles came upon every face.

"That was great, that really made us feel good and warm inside," said Air Force Capt. Sheryll Jones, 26, a nurse from Hampton, Va.

"I thought it was a very moving, inspiring speech," agreed Capt. Stephen Fairchild, 37, of Kalamazoo, Mich. "I was very moved by the standing ovation that people gave."

"That was a surprise to see everybody get up and give a standing ovation," said Sgt. Ron Waller, 29, of Atlanta. "That was nice."

They and other members of the 1st Air Force Transportation Hospital listened to President Bush's State of the Union address from inside a plastic lined mobile hospital unit at an air base in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The unit's members, based at Langley Air Force Base, were some of the first U.S. servicemen stationed in Saudi Arabia, having arrived a few days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2.

This Line Is Occupied

The writer is an Egyptian, Nabila Megalli, of the Associated Press:

The first hint of a major ground battle in the gulf war came in what sounded like a prank.

I telephoned the Khafji Beach Hotel around noon Wednesday (4 a.m. EST) to inquire about an Iraqi claim that its missiles had set fire to oil refineries in Khafji, a Saudi city near the Kuwaiti border.

The man on the other end said: "We are Iraqi soldiers!" I thought he was kidding. "Fine, fine," I said, laughing, "can you just please tell me if there is a fire at the refinery."

"Who are you? Who are you? Huh? Who? What, Egyptian?" a man at the other end shouted in Arabic, guessing my nationality by my accent. Another man's voice also came on the line.

"Who are you?" I asked, my mind grappling with the thought that something may be awry. "We are with Saddam, with Arabism!" he shouted.

They then insulted Egypt, which is allied with the United States against the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Moments later, the U.S. military in Riyadh confirmed that Iraqi forces attacked U.S. Marines and allied forces at Khafji.

Iraq issued its own communique, saying its troops had entered Khafji at midnight Tuesday. The Khafji Beach Hotel is about 5 miles inland from the border checkpoint. People at the hotel have often given firsthand information about the border scene.

This time, there was no slow drawl of the Saudi dialect on the other end of the telephone line. This was an energetic, out-of-breath voice. "What fire? What fire? We don't see anything!" one man shouted.

"See you in Jerusalem," his comrade said. The line went dead.

Iraqi POWs Ask to Stay, Says General

Iraqi prisoners are so surprised by conditions in allied POW camps that some have asked to stay, a U.S. general says.

"I visited both camps and the prisoners actually thought they were going to be tortured. The propaganda was, 'Don't give yourself up because if you are captured you will be tortured, mutilated, violated,' " said Maj. Gen. William Pagonis, the top U.S. logistics officer in Saudi Arabia.

"We even give them prayer time. They were shocked that we were knowledgeable about their Moslem religion and that we honored it. As I told one of the prisoners, 'You've never read anything about the United States. We are a country that was founded by religious groups that came from all over the world,' " Pagonis said in an interview.

"The prisoners are hungry. We take very good care of them. A lot of them don't want to leave. They want to stay and become workers in the camp," Pagonis said.