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Lawyers reflect on service during Desert Storm

November 18, 2015

Every Veterans Day, Indianapolis solo practitioner Mark King keeps his office closed and spends the time reading cards from his mom and trading stories with others who served.

King joined the U.S. Air Force in January 1990. He enlisted shortly after the Berlin Wall fell and told his worried mother he would be fine in the military because the world was at peace.

However, before the year ended, King was shipped to Saudi Arabia as part of the U.S.-Allied response to the Iraq invasion of neighboring Kuwait. January 2016 will mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the first Gulf War known as Operation Desert Storm.

As troops were being sent to the Gulf in a buildup to the first airstrikes on Jan. 16, 1991, back home the U.S. was debating and protesting the potential consequences of the impending war.

An editorial in the Jan. 16-29, 1991, edition of the Indiana Lawyer drew attention to the possibility of terrorist attacks in retaliation to fighting Saddam Hussein and his forces.

“There is little we have done to protect against terrorism,” the editorial stated. “As a free society, we take pride in not having to. However, by thinking about these issues before they happen we can temper our urge to panic should the unthinkable happen.”

Subsequent issues of the Indiana Lawyer carried stories detailing the varied views of the war within Indiana’s legal community. Some attorneys saw the war as a necessary response to aggression but others were cautious, noting a prolonged conflict could erode public support. Still others were opposed with one attorney asserting “… the loss of human life for oil and politics is wrong.”

King did not hear much of the debate – at that time, he was an airman, not an attorney, and he did not find his way to Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law until several years later. He was busy training for a possible chemical weapons attack and keeping his mom calm.

Unlike most military personnel, King and the other airmen had access to landline phones. His mom called him regularly and sent him a card every day. When CNN reported that the bombing had started, King’s mom called on an unsecured phone. He had to deny the news accounts, which still incites his mom to remind him that he lied to her.

“Sorry, Mom,” King mused about what he should have said. “I can’t tell you about the war. I love you, but it’s classified.”

In the first wave of 170 aircraft that launched the Desert Storm, James Sweeney II was strapped into the co-pilot’s seat of one of the planes. He was a flight officer who had arrived in the Gulf less than a month after Kuwait was invaded.

Like King, Sweeney would not go to law school until after the conflict ended. He enlisted out of high school and as a 17-year-old went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis then accepted a commission from the U.S. Marine Corps.

Sweeney had served nearly 10 years, being deployed to forward positions in the Pacific, before he was stationed in the Gulf. The politics surrounding Desert Storm did not enter the conversation among the military members. As Sweeney explained, soldiers follow the orders of their commanders and they make sure their buddies all return from battle.

“War is a terrible thing but sometimes it’s necessary,” Sweeney, now a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, said.

Upon returning home, Sweeney decided to step down from active duty and enlist in the reserves where he served another 19 years. His decision was fueled, in part, by his parents’ declining health, which he believed suffered from the round-the-clock coverage of the Gulf War.

Much of King’s mom’s worry was caused by the TV reports of Iraqi Scud missiles being fired at U.S. and Israeli targets. In Saudi Arabia, King drew a mark on his helmet each time a warning sounded of an incoming Scud attack.

Twenty-eight times King made a mark. During the first dozen, King and the other airmen would take shelter when a Scud was launched. But, he said, they then got a little cocky and started staying outside to watch because U.S. Patriot missiles were so successful in blowing up the Scuds in midair.

They were reminded of the reality of the war when one Scud hit a barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and killed 28 soldiers.

Frank Julian served on the USS Kalamazoo during Desert Storm. When describing his experience, he stopped several times and stressed his tour of duty was very different from the conflicts since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.

“I don’t compare what I did to what they have gone through in the last 10 years,” he said of the service members who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Julian explained he was not threatened by improvised explosive devices or terrorists and he did not have to serve multiple lengthy tours in a battle zone.

The partner at Sweeney Julian P.C. in South Bend was the son of a naval officer. He enlisted after graduating from college and deployed to the Gulf a short time later. The USS Kalamazoo was a self-defending supply ship which regularly took oil, bombs, missiles and food to the aircraft carriers. He was charged with operating the ship’s multiple radars, electronic warfare equipment and missile system.

In 1996, Julian left the Navy and enrolled in the University of Notre Dame Law School. He had considered rejoining the military as an attorney, but an internship with a local plaintiffs’ lawyer introduced him to an area of practice he loved.

Today, he has a lot of clients who are former military members and he enjoys hearing their stories.

“I’m very proud of what the young guys have done,” Julian said. “They really went through more than I ever did.”

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David was in the U.S. Army Reserve during Desert Storm as well as the Afghanistan and subsequent Iraq wars. In the conflicts following the 2001 attacks he was mobilized twice, which included a tour as chief defense counsel at Guantanamo Bay.

During Desert Storm, David had reserve duty at then-Fort Benjamin Harrison. There he helped other reservists and active duty personnel prepare their wills and power of attorney documents. He remembered there being a lot of apprehension at that time. The soldiers were wondering if they would be deployed; some were given orders to ship out then were told to stand down.

Although he comes from a military family and he is proud of his service, David wants his future relatives to live in a peaceful world.

“I hope my grandchildren never have to serve, but I hope they would be proud to serve,” David said.•

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