A Small Town Comes to Terms With Scud-Attack Losses
ONE YEAR AFTER DESERT STORM
ON Feb. 25, 1991, Staff Sgt. Dave Campbell was lying on his bunk in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, thinking about getting up, thinking about the air sirens that were wailing. Suddenly, he was flying violently through the air.
"It wasn't a boom. It was a crack, like someone had taken a baseball bat and hit you on the side of the head. I may have blacked out.... It seemed like I lay there a good while."
Staff Sgt. Lester Bennett had turned down the Trivial Pursuit game and was heading toward the outdoor showers when the sirens started. He turned around and was bending down to sit on his bunk. He was 50 feet away from the blast.
"I was reaching out there for the bunk and I couldn't reach it. I kept thinking: This is a heck of a way to die. But I heard a voice say: 'It's not your time.
It took two hours for the news to travel from Dhahran, to a big brown house in Johnstown, Pa. Corey, Sergeant Bennett's middle son, heard it first on the radio.
"Mom, there was a Scud alert in Dhahran, but don't worry," he called out from the basement. "They said a Patriot [missile] hit it."
The Bennetts' concerns grew as news about casualties came in. At 11:30 that night, they learned the unit hit by the Scud was headquartered in Farrell, Pa. That could only mean Bennett's Army Reserve group, the 475th. Elaine Boxler, whose husband was also with the unit, heard the news and telephoned.
"Why don't you come over here?" Vicki Bennett remembers suggesting. Mrs. Boxler agreed.
Of the 69 men and women assigned to the 14th Quartermaster Detachment of the 475th, a water-purification unit, 13 were killed and 43 wounded. These casualties are tallied up as one of the hazards of war - a war, with surprisingly few casualties on the allied side. But the men and women of the 14th Quartermasters weren't full-time soldiers, just part-time reservists far from the front lines.
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