Magazine article VFW Magazine

Remembering Those Who Fought, 1975-1999

Magazine article VFW Magazine

Remembering Those Who Fought, 1975-1999

Article excerpt

If you are a veteran of any of the dozen campaigns waged during this era, you rate the respect of your peers. You have it at VFW.

Sandwiched between the Vietnam War and the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are a dozen U.S. military campaigns waged in faraway places, reaching from Southeast Asia to Southeast Europe. Between 1975 and 1999, GIs confronted an array of adversaries, ranging from Cambodian Communists to Serbian nationalists to Islamic terrorists.

These global actions necessitated the overseas deployment of 1 million U.S. troops: some 700,000 in the Persian Gulf and 300,000 total on the smaller missions throughout the world.

This combat era began with a battle on Koh Tang, an island off Cambodia, in 1975 during the SS Mayagnez rescue operation. The next rescue attempt in the Iranian desert went awry. Separating warring factions in Lebanon turned into a morass.

Grenada was invaded to depose a Marxist dictator. Three years later, the outlaw regime of another dictator was bombed in Libya. Closer to home, a drug lord was felled in Panama. In neighboring El Salvador, American advisers persevered for 10 years in combating Marxists.

The "big one" of this period was the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Involving 680,000 U.S. troops, evicting Iraq from Kuwait entailed a 100-hour ground war and a six-week bombing offensive.

But peace in the region proved elusive. For more than a decade, U.S. air and naval forces became a permanent fixture there, keeping the lid on tensions and containing Iraqi Saddam Hussein.

Humanitarianism motivated the next three international interventions. Somalia quickly demonstrated the futility of "nation-building" in East Africa. A repeat performance on Haiti, fortunately, involved little violence. On the heels of these Third World quagmires, GIs were dispatched to Bosnia and then Kosovo, after a 78-day bombing campaign.

Terrorist assaults presaged the terror war to come. …

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