Moving Mom Gets Helping Hands She Most Wanted

Son's Return Is Perfect Housewarming Present

War In The Gulf

March 17, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The black car inched up the snow-covered hill, discharging its passenger, Shawn R. Borgealt, before the engine was off.

The 20-year-old Marine lance corporal, dressed in a heavy red sweat shirt, raced like a flame across the icy lawn into the house.

"I'll never forget the look on my mother's face when I came through the door," he said Thursday. "I wanted to surprise her and I sure did."

His mother, Bette Jean Borgealt, in the midst of packing to move, expected helping hands to drop in. She had left her front dooropen.

She had the best kind of help, she said, as she found herself wrapped in the arms of her son, whom she hadn't seen for more thana year.

She wore a yellow ribbon, pinned to a white sweat shirt bearing the Marines insignia. One more care package sat in her dining room, ready for shipment to the Persian Gulf.

Her son opened it athome.

Shawn Borgealt had just returned from seven months on the front line in Saudi Arabia. Within a few days, he had traveled from a climate marked by heat, dust and sand to one of ice and snow. He saidhe didn't mind the change at all.

"I have been dreaming about this day for a long time," he said. "Through all the waiting, training and the brief fighting, everybody thought about going home."

Shawn had planned to visit his family last summer, after serving in Panama.The Iraqi invasion curtailed those plans.

A radioman in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, he was deployed to the gulf on Aug. 13 as partof Task Force Ripper. A several-month waiting game followed, filled with stifling heat, tension and tedium, he said.

"The first two months after arrival, the daily temperature soared to 130 degrees," he said. "Even at night, it was about 100 degrees. There was no way to keep cool."

By mid-October, the weather became more bearable, he said, but not the waiting.

In between rigorous training exercises, he read his mail and whatever books his family sent him. He became a real fan of mysteries, he said.

He and his buddies also captured scorpions and cheered as the creatures fought battles in boxes. They also made pets of camels, which often wandered into their camp.

Borgealt's unit usually spent six days on the front lines, conducting training exercises, following by two days in the "safety and comfort" ofa Saudi barracks, behind the lines.

He was sleeping under camouflage netting in the desert when a buddy woke him with the news the airwar had begun.

"We could hear a distant tapping sound but we couldn't see anything," he said. "I said, 'Good it's beginning,' and wentback to sleep."

By the time the ground war began, Shawn said, therelentless air campaign had seriously weakened the Iraqi resistance.

"We all felt confident most of the time during the fighting," he said. "We saw more Iraqis surrender than fight."

As the Marines drove through the desert to Kuwait City, Shawn's unit encountered entrenched enemy soldiers. The Marines prepared for battle, but the Iraqisgave up before a shot was fired.

"They came out of the trenches, took down their pants and waved their underwear over their heads as asign of surrender," he said.

Further along the desert route, manyother Iraqis surrendered.

"We were a little leery, though," he said. "We thought they might change their minds and open fire the way they did at Khafji."

Kuwait was a chaotic scene of devastation, with oil fires causing much of the damage.

"At 2 p.m., it's so pitch black you can't see your hand in front of your face," he said. "If you blow your nose, oil comes out. The rain forms black puddles on the ground."

While in Kuwait City, the battalion got the word to pack up for home.

"I thought I would be bringing home some thin-lookingkid in a Marine uniform," said Shawn's father, Brian Borgealt, when he, his wife, Joan, and stepson Jonathan Luther, 11, met Shawn at BWIAirport.

"He looks like he's in great shape."

Shawn's travel attire included a T-shirt that he said "summed up" his feelings. It read "It wasn't the scenery that brought me here. Arabian Gulf 1990."

During his 20-day leave, Shawn plans to renew acquaintances with his family, including his grandfather, a Marine who fought in World WarII. Then he'll return to his base, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He enlisted in the Marines during his junior year at North Carroll High and began training after his 1989 graduation. He said he has a home with the Corps, too.

"The Marines, they're the best."

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