ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --
“No peaceful international order is possible if larger states can devour their smaller neighbors," said former U.S. President George H.W. Bush as he addressed Congress after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
After an extensive air campaign, it took less than four days to fully liberate the country of Kuwait. Less than four days, a meager amount of time in the grand history of the world, and yet the legacy of those days carries on 32 years later.
Kuwait continues to be a major ally to the United States, supporting the cause of peace and prosperity in the Middle East region. It hosts a sizable contingent of U.S. and coalition troops to this day.
The legacy of the liberation also continues in other ways. Take U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mary Yelnicker, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of staff, for example. Her father, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ralph Anthenien, then himself also a lieutenant colonel, volunteered to support the mission to liberate Kuwait.
“He was working to liberate this location, and now I’m here working in the location that was liberated,” said Yelnicker. “The fight that took place was relatively short lived, but here we are 32 years later. The relationship between the U.S. and Kuwait has not been short lived.”
There is also the case of U.S. Air Force Capt. Victoria Wright, 386th AEW chief of public affairs. Her father, former U.S. Air Force Sergeant Joseph Wright, was a special tactics operator during the war.
“I was assigned to a joint task force composite wing with U.S. Army personnel,” said Joseph Wright. “Our job was to establish ground and satellite communication for air support, fire support, and aerial control. By far the most memorable events I witnessed were the oil fires which made the daytime sky look like night.”
Joseph Wright mentioned that Capt. Victoria Wright is a fourth generation U.S. Air Force service member, and he is happy to see that she is carrying on the family tradition all these years later, now in Kuwait of all places.
“I am immensely proud of Captain Wright and her resolve to serve this nation,” said Joseph Wright. “I feel as though she is prepared to complete the mission at hand and overcome any adversity she encounters.”
Retired Col. Ralph Anthenien also expressed many positive feelings about his daughter serving in Kuwait.
“I am so proud of the hard work, devotion, and diligence that Lt. Col. Mary Yelnicker is displaying in support of Ali Al Salem Air Base,” said Anthenien. “I am also pleased that she can see the results of America's best; Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, who helped to liberate Kuwait so many years ago. It is fortunate that she and so many others can be involved in the aftermath of that operation and see the citizens of Kuwait enjoying their freedom as they continue to live in their own sovereign nation.”
Yelnicker shared how she found it fascinating that what many might consider a small blip in history created a generations-long relationship that continues to impact an entire country and the lives of countless service members.
Those initial four days turned into 32 years, and now, it has formed a unique bond of service and connection for two father-daughter duos.
“I was genuinely excited to deploy to Kuwait, knowing I was continuing the work my father had done for the Liberation,” Capt. Victoria Wright said. “I grew up hearing his stories and now I’m here making my own.”
The war to free Kuwait will never be forgotten and the legacies of liberation continue on here at Ali Al Salem Air Base.