Border sentry contains hope, remains wary WAR IN THE GULF

March 04, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ON THE IRAQ-KUWAIT BORDER -- A grin spread across the face of Sgt. John Sanchez when he heard the results of the cease-fire talks.

But then it disappeared with the habit of a man who has learned in the desert sand to be wary.

"I don't know," he cautioned. "Doesn't fit. Sounds too good to be true."

Sergeant Sanchez was guarding the border as talks between allied and Iraqi military commanders occurred in a tent five miles away.

He wants to go home to Denver, Iowa, or at least to his home base of Fort Riley, Kan. But he permitted no optimism: "I think we'll be here for a while longer."

It has been a war of mixed emotions for Sergeant Sanchez, a 27-year-old with a friendly smile and a round face that completes the circle of his helmet.

His armored unit, part of the "Big Red One" 1st Infantry Division, fired shots only to hurry surrendering Iraqi soldiers out of their trenches, and the only injuries to his men were from accidents.

But the elation of those facts was sobered by the face-to-face meeting with the enemy, he said.

He saw his first two Iraqi soldiers from atop his Bradley Fighting Vehicle as he prepared to rush through the breach of earthen defenses. The enemy had their hands held high.

"It was depressing," Sergeant Sanchez admitted. "When you say soldier, I have in mind people like us. But the Iraqis had mix-and-match uniforms. One of them wore flip-flops. You could tell they were hungry and thirsty and scared. I felt sympathy for them."

As he approached the two men, he looked back and saw a bristling line of tanks and a hovering row of Cobra helicopters. "Talk about overkill," Sergeant Sanchez said.

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