Utahns serving with a military evacuation hospital near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, have treated their first injuries from the Persian Gulf war - two soldiers, both of whom had purple-heart medals pinned to their pajamas.
In a telephone interview from Saudi Arabia, Staff Sgt. A.J. Walkowski of the Utah National Guard's 144th Evacuation Hospital said authorities have been asking for volunteers to head to the combat zone and help care for the wounded. By far most of these are Iraqi soldiers.Some members of the hospital staff may decide to volunteer, he said. For the others, "there's a good chance that we may know next week when our departure date for home is."
The tent hospital's staff includes doctors, surgeons, nurses and technicians. According to Walkowski, most seem anxious to return home.
The hospital has 260 beds, he said.
The sergeant passed along his greetings to Utah, along with greetings from others in the unit:
Spec. Joseph Christensen: "It's nice to know that justice prevails, not only in storybooks but in Kuwait also."
Sgt. First Class Brent Nelson, an operating-room nurse: "I was proud to come to set up the hospital and know we could function. I'm extremely glad we didn't need to use the hospital" for many combat injuries.
Sgt. Julie Morton: "Thank God our losses were few. I hope and pray we all go home - no POWs, none unaccounted for."
First Sgt. Alex Aerts: "I am glad that the fighting is over and am happy that our losses were few. I am proud to be here and am prepared to continue to serve my country. I will be happy to return home to family and friends."
Maj. Brent Monson: "We are proud to have served America. May she always defend all people's freedom."
Col. Sherrie Hoffman, in charge of the operating room: "I'm glad the war is over, and my prayers were answered, as we had few WIAs (wounded in action) and few KIAs (killed in action) for this size war. I thank God for the Air Force, Patriots (missiles) and the excellent strategy of Gen. Schwarzkopf and his staff. I also thank my family for their support."
Capt. Kim Walkowski: "I'm not only proud to be here serving America, I'm proud that America was there to serve us."
Sgt. Dusty Rigby: "We worked through our problems, solved our crisis with ingenuity, and did the best job possible with the resources available. I'm glad the operation was quick and effective. It's an experience I'll never forget."
Sgt. A.J. Walkowski: "It was difficult to leave home and participate in this conflict, but I'm proud to have served and I'm thrilled that it is over, so that now we can come home and go about our lives. There were a lot of heroes that fought bravely here and a lot of heroes that stayed home and braved their own little battles, bereft of loved ones.
"Everyone involved should be proud of their efforts that ultimately regained for the Kuwaiti people that God-given gift that we hold so dear in America: freedom."
Sgt. Will Pratt: "I'm glad that the United States finally stood up to a person like the likes of Hussein. I'm also glad the war was short and the casualties were few, and the best part of all will be coming home."
Sgt. John Lindgren: "We were called to duty. We served. We're going home, and by doing so, we are better soldiers and more appreciative citizens. God bless Gen. Schwarzkopf, God bless President Bush, and God bless the United States of America."
Staff Sgt. Michael Lord: "As much as I dislike leaving my beautiful wife and family, I am glad I could serve in this war against aggression. This experience has given me a great appreciation for my family, for my country and my beliefs.
"This really was a holy war. The allied forces came out victors because of the prayers of the citizens of the free world."
Sgt. Charles M. Zollinger: "It's a shame that I sometimes need to rely upon tragedy to realize what is most important in my life - my family, my church and my country."
1st Lt. Ron Ulberg: "When you look at the few numbers of casualties on our side vs. the maybe 100,000 on their side, it could be close to a modern-day miracle."
Capt. George Evans: "A sense of relief that the number of casualties were low, and that our (the hospital unit's) services, although significant, were not needed to the extent that the initial estimate of casualties would have indicated. Thank God we're coming home."
Spec. Kelly Marks: "I am glad that we did not give in. It goes to show you that when the United States starts something we will stay until it is finished, with as little casualties as possible.
"Without the support of our family we could not have done our job. Thanks to you all, we will be home soon to try to regain our lives."
Staff Sgt. Jerry Stocking: "I am glad our forces were able to get the job done quickly, and I hope we're able to go home as quickly."
Sgt. Jay Gallacher: "I feel I'd like to go home. I feel I should help my wife through her/our pregnancy. I feel good about what has passed the last few months. I feel grateful."