Troops take applause personally

January 30, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

EASTERN SAUDI ARABIA -- When the members of Congress stood to applaud the men and women serving in the Persian Gulf, an impossibly wide smile stole across Air Force Sgt. William Resides' face.

"Look," he said, pointing to the television set and speaking in the excited tone of someone who has just witnessed something remarkable. "They're giving us a standing ovation."

His eyes welled with tears.

"I've never seen so many formal people cut loose like that," he said when it was all over. ". . . It gives you a sense of pride. It brings a tear to your eye. It wrenches your heart.

"Sometimes, you wonder if they forget, if they've wandered to other subjects," said Resides, 24, a medic who has been here since Aug. 12. "It helps to have it reaffirmed."

For Resides and about a dozen other medics and nurses with the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing Hospital, Bush's State of the Union address was more than an eloquent communique from their commander-in-chief, the remote figure who in large part decides their fates.

It came across as a personal tribute to each of them, a frank and genuine recognition of the sacrifices they are making and the horrors they may face. They gathered to watch in a tent hospital ward that is nearly empty now but may soon be full, and sat on cots that may comfort the wounded or dying.

They had made a special point to see this speech.

They were not disappointed.

"This is about as good as I've felt since I entered the military," said Staff Sgt. Keith Morgan, 33, another medic. Morgan has been in the Air Force for 9 1/2 years. "It gave you a great feeling of worth," he said.

Like other service people here, Morgan and Resides said they need to hear the purpose of their mission reiterated, the nature of their sacrifices detailed.

"We believe in what we're doing, but we need our families, too," Resides said. "At least I know I need my wife, and I think she probably needs me pretty bad by now, too."

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