Emmaus veterans honored mark 25th anniversary
John Kropf remembers the fires.
Stationed 30 miles south of the front lines near Kuwait when oil fields were set ablaze during Operation Desert Storm, Kropf recalls blackened skies in the middle of the day. The sky was so dark the sun resembled the moon.
“It looked like midnight,” Kropf said.
Kropf joined fellow veterans Kevin Minnich, Scott E. Gross and Chris Weiss Sept. 25 in a small park in Emmaus to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm in which the men served within the military effort now referred to by some as the First Gulf War.
The military effort was in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990. The initial response, designated Operation Desert Shield, evolved into Operation Desert Storm in mid-January 1991, according to a Department of Defense timeline.
Kropf was living on Walnut Street just doors down from Kevin Minnich, now of Lower Macungie Township, when the men learned they were heading overseas as part of the Army National Guard 3623rd, a vehicle maintenance company. Minnich’s younger brother, who Minnich described as “in the regular Army at the time,” served at the same time. Minnich’s son was two months old when Minnich went to the Gulf. Minnich’s son was to celebrate his 26th birthday in the coming week, Minnich said.
In a short interview prior to the ceremony, Mayor Winfield Iobst said he wanted to recognize the anniversary of the war and the sacrifices by local men and women who served.
Gross, a former Emmaus police chief, was in the military police in Battalion 424, an Army Reserve unit out of Wilkes Barre when he was activated.
“I got the call Christmas Eve,” he recalled.
His unit was among the last to leave the war zone, handling customs work for equipment and belongings shipped stateside as troops came home. Gross also was involved with prisoner of war operations, he said.
“I enjoyed the structure of the military,” Gross, now retired, said. “We had a job to do and we did it,” he continued.
Iobst shook each veteran’s hand in the short informal ceremony Sept. 25, handing each man a copy of a proclamation marking the day and thanking each for his service. Others who served were to receive their proclamation by mail or personal delivery.
Weiss, who also served with the 3623rd, felt it important to acknowledge the anniversary milestone. A newlywed at the time, he and his wife had just moved to Emmaus in August of 1990.
“We were talking about what we would do for Thanksgiving and I get the phone call,” Weiss said.
He recalls the SCUD missile attacks and the Patriot missiles launched in response.
Weiss retired from military service in 2001, after 20 1/2 years and just six months before the towers fell in New York City.
He still lives in Emmaus in the same house into which he had just moved in 1990.