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By Sgt. Trenton Fouche
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Several Illinois veterans came to the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs’ Desert Storm Remembrance Ceremony to remember the service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Persian Gulf War and to commemorate a conflict that reshaped the U.S. military.
The ceremony was held at the Illinois State Military Museum on Camp Lincoln, the Illinois National Guard’s headquarters in Springfield on Feb. 28. The date marked the 32nd anniversary of the cease fire announcement of the Persian Gulf War.
Lt. Col. (retired) Renysha Brown, the keynote speaker, served in the Illinois Army National Guard for 28 years. During her career, she deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
“I enlisted into the Army on March 16, 1989 as a gift to my mother to help pay for college,” Brown said. “One of the biggest fears I had speaking with my recruiter was potentially going to war, something he ensured me was unlikely to happen. I can remember August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. My company commander had a meeting in the day room, with the platoon sergeant, informing us that we had less than fourteen days to pack and make sure that had our personal affairs in order. I was then calling my mother on a payphone to inform her that I was going overseas.”
Desert Storm, the final phase of the Persian Gulf War, was initiated against Iraq with United Nations authorization by a coalition force from 39 nations. Their mission was to expel Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait.
During the conflict, 18 service members from Illinois would pay the ultimate sacrifice.
“This conflict had a significant impact on not just Illinois, but our country as a whole,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Alessia, Director of the Illinois National Guard’s Joint Staff. “The military had several small engagements during the 1980s, in Panama, Libya and Grenada, but had not mobilized this large of a force since the Vietnam era.”
Illinois State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a Marine Corps Veteran, thanked service members for their sacrifice.
“Serving our country, whether in peacetime or war still has risks,” Kifowit said. “Illinois values and appreciates all of our veterans and everything that they do, as well as the current service members who call Illinois home.”
After returning from Saudi Arabia, Brown would continue to grow as a leader and give back to other service members and their families, deploying in support of Iraqi Freedom II and working in various capacities such as a management analyst in the Illinois National Guard’s United States Property and Fiscal Office and as an assistant professor of military science and regional coordinator for Lincoln’s Challenge Academy, an Illinois National Guard quasi-military program for youth facing challenges completing high school. She retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in 2017.
“The bonds I made with my brothers and sisters in arms will never be broke or forgotten,” Brown said.