FORT BLISS, Texas - For much of the 20th century, wars ravaged the Middle East, changing country borders and keeping tensions on edge that another war could break out at any moment.
Twenty years ago, the U.S., with backing from the United Nations and a coalition of forces from other countries, stepped in to liberate the tiny country of Kuwait from the grips of Iraq, ushering in the era of modern warfare, which included the Stealth Fighter and the Patriot Missile.
Hundreds of Fort Bliss veterans who took part in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm gathered at the post recently to mark the 20th anniversary of an historic moment for America's military.
In the summer of 1990, the United States responded to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait with Operation Desert Shield, which set a United Nations of Jan. 15, 1991 for Iraq to withdraw its forces from the Persian Gulf state.
As the deadline loomed, the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss deployed to Saudi Arabia with two Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-2) missiles, a system that was still being tested at New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range. The missiles were still marked "For Experimental Use Only."
Upon their arrival in the Persian Gulf, then Col. Joseph De Antona had that experimental marking covered with spray paint immediately.
"That was not the message we wanted to send to the troops" and to the adversary, he recalled in a documentary shown during Thursday's ceremony.
The keynote speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Joseph Garrett, who commanded the 11th ADA at Fort Bliss from 1990 to 1992, told the audience of mostly young soldiers about the legacy of the "Imperial" brigade.
"I am certain we have fully met the historians' test of time," he said.
Garrett spoke proudly about the brigade's contributions at all levels of modern warfare and how they met tremendous challenges, such as scarce ammunition at the very beginning of their mission.
"When you're heading into war and you don't have any bullets, it's a pretty daunting feeling," Garrett said.
During the ceremony, three veterans of a different professions were recognized. Anne Semmer, Roger Maier and Kevin Lovell were reporters at KVIA, Channel 7 at the time and deployed to Saudi Arabia as the war was about to break to capture soldiers' stories.
"They were the first embedded media before (the term) 'embedded media' " was coined, said Garrett.
Semmer, now a teacher; Maier, a public information officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Lovell, now KVIA's general manager, received the colors of the "Imperial" Brigade for their coverage of Operation Desert Shield. All three spent a week traveling with units in the Persian Gulf desert in January, 1991. They were given unprecedented access to the troops and witnessed the escalation of the mission, as they returned to El Paso just three days before combat operations began on Jan. 16, 1991.
Former ABC-7 anchor Gary Warner, who narrated the documentary presented at the ceremony and who spent several weeks at the Pentagon as part of the Army Reserves during Operation Desert Storm, also was recognized at Thursday's ceremony.
During his speech, Garrett said he was fully aware that some soldiers in the audience were not born yet when Operation Desert Storm was launched. The message is the same as the one he used to give his own soldiers.
"What can soldiers of the 11th brigade expect now?" he said. "Train as you intend to fight, listen to your leaders and fight as you intend to win."