Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
My own knowledge of what actually went on in the Gulf War comes from what I learned from a woman who used to come and tidy up our house once a week when we were living in Spencer, NY, a small conservative working-class Republican village south of Ithaca, back in those days. We had been friendly with this woman up to the time when President George H.W. Bush began the build-up for his glorious little war against Iraq in late 1990. At that point, my wife and I became part of a small group of peace advocates opposing the incipient war. Because we were prominently pressing the local town board to go on record as opposing the invasion of Iraq (something we succeeded in doing), this woman, who said her husband was a US Marine tank gunner who had already been shipped over to a base in the Saudi desert to prepare for the invasion, announced that she’d no longer work for us.
We didn’t see her at all during that short “war,” but a few weeks after it ended, I did run into her in the local market, and she was very ecstatic, her earlier anger at our peacenik politics apparently forgotten. She said that her husband had called and was on his way home! She added that he had told her, “Gen. (Norman) Schwartzkopf told us all that if we kicked Iraqi butt in the invasion, we’d be the first ones home, and we kicked butt, so I’m headed home!”
I told her I was glad he was safe, and that he was coming home soon, and then went about my shopping.
A few weeks later, though, I ran into her again at the same local market, and she looked really troubled. I asked her if everything was okay and she replied, “No. My husband came home, but he’s really depressed. He just sits around the house and cries. He says that what his tank unit did was not a battle, but a slaughter. He says when they moved into Kuwait to fight the Iraqi tanks, all they found were burned-up tanks with body parts strewn all over the ground. They’d all been blown up already by artillery fire and rockets from air attacks. He said a lot of the bodies they saw were soldiers in civilian clothes, wearing sneakers.”
I asked her if her husband might like to talk to a Vietnam veteran I knew up in Ithaca who worked with soldiers suffering from PTSD and she took his information. I learned later from talking to my veteran friend that he had spent some time with the troubled young Marine, who was really suffering from the guilt and horror of what he had witnessed and been part of.
It sounds like McMaster’s “battle” was not much different from that young Marine’s, though McMaster got a coveted medal for his (and doesn’t seem to have suffered any guilt-induced PTSD issues over how he earned it). So that’s Gen. McMaster’s first war, and the true nature of his Silver Star.