By Spc. Tobin E. Hill
148th Public Affairs Detachment
Now the war is over, and the Kuwaiti's have their country
And one fire fighter refuses to shield his joy and gratitude
for the Allied Coalition's work, especially the United States'
"When Iraq first attacked, many Kuwaitis sought refuge
at the embassies in Kuwait. The United States let them in, white
the Russian embassy would throw them back out on the streets.
From the beginning, the United States has been on our side,"
said Manei Alhayan, captain of the Kuwait City Fire Department.
Days after the invasion, Alhayan decided that he would have
to protect his family and himself by leaving Kuwait "The
Iraqis treated ussobadly. They stole our food and personal belongings.
Tbeyleftold men, women, and children - even infants - to die
in hospitals to take medical equipment to Baghdad. When people
would call the fire department, the Iraqis would hang up. We
were not allowed to do our job as fire fighters.
"When I saw my neighbors being hurt and killed, I knew
that I would have to take my family out of Kuwait."
Alhayan said that he left Kuwait like he was smuggling something
out of his country. In essence, it was true. He was smuggling
out his family. "We had to leave through the desert We could
take no roads or highways for fear of being caught It was a scary
experience, because I have a baby girl, and we got stuck with
little food and water. Thanks to my cousin, we made it to Saudi
Arabia with few problems."
Alhayan took refuge in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for the duration
of the Persian Gulf War. He spent sleepless nights and unproductive
days, wondering what would become of his links to the oil-rich
emirate. "You don't knowwhat it's like going through the
day not knowing if you will ever be able to return to your country.
I also have a daughter from another marriage. Not knowing what
happened to her, as well as my family and friends, just left
me useless. I cannot concentrate on anything. I can only wonder
if they are dead, and if they're not dead, are they all right?
I can only wonder if Kuwait will belong to the Kuwaiti's again.
That's all I can do is wonder."
Alhayan has been going to the Dhahran International Hotel
since he's been in the city, impatiently waiting to find out
any news about Kuwait by going to the Office of the Kuwait Information
Minister or by watching CNN.
On the night of Feb. 27, Alhayan, along with his friend, Mohammed
M. Alscidairi, met three 3rd Armored Division soldiers while
watching CNN in the foyer. While watching his fellow countrymen
dancing in the streets, he felt he needed to do something himself
to share in the joy of the beginning of Kuwait's new freedom.
And Alhayan toasted the occasion with a red, white and blue twist.
Alhayan turned to his new American friends and asked, "Would
you like to join my friend and me for something to eat?"
The soldiers weren't too sure what they were supposed to do or
say for fear of insulting the Arabs or breaking a military rule.
In the end, the soldiers went with them to the restaurant in
the hotel The soldiers heard the many tales that Alhayan had
to tell about his escape and other tales he had heard about.
A reserve-component soldier serving in the Gulf War was upbeat
about his role in the Middle East after talking to Alhayan. "I
really wondered about my participation here, but now I feel really
good and proud to be here," the soldier told Alhayan.
"I just wish all the soldiers could have seen Kuwait
before Iraq invaded," said Alhayan with teary eyes of joy.
"I don't think Kuwait will ever be able to thank the United
States enough. The least I could do was buy these soldiers dinner.
It's still nothing compared to all the sacrifice of all the soldiers
who came to the Middle East to fight a war for another country.
It makes my heart happy to see that Kuwait will be ours again.
"In-sha-Allah. It will be ours forever."