Thirty years after Iraqi forces invaded neighboring Kuwait and sparked the first Gulf War, a couple dozen servicemen roared up to Daley Plaza on motorcycles Sunday morning to commemorate the anniversary and the American lives lost in the conflict.
Former Ald. James Balcer (11th), a Marine Corps veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, led the group in commemorating the 382 troops lost in battle, including 14 Illinoisans whose names were later read aloud. Those lives, Balcer said, should “never, ever be forgotten.”
On Aug. 2, 1990, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein led the invasion and occupation of Kuwait, a small, oil-rich country at the tip of the Persian Gulf. A coalition of nations led by the United States then banded together to back Kuwait in ensuing military operations dubbed Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
By February 1991, coalition forces drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and back into their own territory, prompting a cease-fire. Hussein, however, was left in power as the country’s president, a role he wouldn’t relinquish until he was forced from office and ultimately executed after U.S. troops invaded the country as part of the “War on Terror.”
Former Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, noted that a Chicago flag provided by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley was brought to Kuwait and flown during the fighting.
“A lot of guys gave their all, left home and were gone for a long time, proud to defend and protect our country,” Santiago said before the group affixed a commemorative wreath to the gate that surrounds the “eternal” flame in Daley Plaza.
While there were hundreds of American casualties tallied during the Gulf War, the BBC has estimated between 60,000 and 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and another 100,000 to 200,000 civilians were killed in the conflict.