Jubilation tempered with wariness was the mood Thursday among the men and women who have supported America's presence in the Persian Gulf since last summer.
Their feelings were like those of Salt Lake residents who drove around with blaring horns at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the moment when the cease-fire officially began.Along I-15 leading to Hill, other evidence of patriotic sentiment was lofted. A flashing signboard at Jerry Seiner's auto dealership near Bountiful read, "PEACE DECLARED - THANK YOU U.S. MILITARY."
Maj. Roger Benninger, a pilot with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, said, "I'm really extremely thankful to God that the casualties were so light. . . . Second, I think the military instrument of our government demonstrated that it performed flawlessly. I think we're to be proud of that fact. . . .
"And finally, I think that themilitary will be more than happy to go back to its normal position of obscurity in the government and let the diplomatic process go on."
"We're very elated, and we can't wait to get our guys back," said Capt. Jan Lauer, with the base public affairs office. The office is starting to plan "a real big, happy homecoming so they know they were missed."
A personnel technician for the 388th, Staff Sgt. John Gentry, said, "I'm happy that it's over with, or potentially over with, because I do have relatives that are over there fighting as well as friends that I've grown up with. But for true, lasting peace, we may have stopped short."
He said it was his personal opinion that "we should have gone ahead to take Saddam out."
Echoing that, Master Sgt. Ken Geurin, security police liaison for the 388th, said "I don't feel, that if we want true peace in the region, that we can leave Saddam in power."
Ed Cooper, a resident of South Weber, said, "Well, I'm glad we got it over as quick as we did." He was not surprised though because "I've seen the boys in action - on displays at some of their gunnery shows at the range. I wish we'd pursued it as far as to get rid of Saddam. He's a dangerous man. He'll fight again if he has a chance."
One worker commented, as he went into the visitor center to get the vehicle day-tag he needed to get on Hill property, "Well, I just hope that maybe it'll be easier to get onto the base again."
Ozzie Schmidt, Boise, who was arriving at Hill on business, said, "I'm a World War II disabled vet from the Marine Corps, and I don't think it's a war (President) Bush should have got us into. And I mean that."
In Utah County, Sherry Boren talked to her husband, Gary, last Friday. So much has happened since that she can only imagine he and the other 13 members of the American Fork-based 120th Quartermaster Detachment are somewhere in Kuwait.
"They're the No. 1 water purifying unit. I don't know if that's good or bad - they were chosen to go" with advancing troops. With the operations winding down, Sherry is thinking less about the dangers of a chemical attack and more about when her husband will be home.
She took it for granted that her 9-year-old son knew what was going on over the past few days until she found out that to him the television coverage still looked like a war. "I asked him yesterday, `Did you know the war was over?' He came running over and gave me five and said, `All right!' and started running up and down in the house."
Phil McRae, a medical helicopter pilot with the Utah Army National Guard, and his wife, Dolores, a member of a shipping company with the Navy Reserve, have a particular interest: their daughter, Camilla Ramirez, a member of the Murray-based 625th Military Police Company of the Utah Army National Guard, currently in Saudi Arabia.
Guard officials said the 625th is active in processing war prisoners. There has been no official word, but all assumptions are that the MPs will be involved for some time handling the many thousands of POWs."It's likely she'll be there awhile," McRae said. "Indications are a lot of those prisoners are not in any hurry to return (to Iraq)."