The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Martin Ernesto Fierro

"Honestly sometimes I feel like I should cry but I can't." (Journal entry in Video Interview, 1:05:21)

   Martin Ernesto Fierro
Collection image
Martin Fierro [detail from video]
War: Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Army
Unit: 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Service Location: North Carolina; Iraq; Kuwait
Rank: E-4
View Full Description

As a child, Martin Fierro learned about his father' service in the Vietnam War, and he decided to serve his country, too, by enlisting in the Army in 1989, the year he graduated from high school. He hadn't anticipated going to war himself, but nine months into his hitch his unit was called to serve in the Persian Gulf War. A grenadier in the infantry, Fierro saw less violence than he had anticipated and was surprised at how quickly the fighting concluded—especially because he knew his unit's original mission was to help capture Baghdad.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (13 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (67 min.)
More like this
»Hispanics in Service
»Persian Gulf War: 25 Years Later
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (13 items)
Enlisting the year he graduated from high school, while he was in Texas on vacation; did not tell his mother, who was upset with him; when he went into the Army he didn't anticipate being involved in a conflict; why he wanted to serve. (01:59) In the summer of 1990, anticipating his unit being called up after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; his mother not hearing from him for his first month in country and not even knowing where he was; wanting to believe that Hussein would pull back and he wouldn't have to go to war. (03:12) Training for war with soldiers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and France; French soldiers had better facilities, especially for bathing. (01:27)
Hardest thing was missing his family; few days off and you were never really "off" anyway; his journey to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi/Iraqi border; as a grenadier required to know how to use a variety of weapons and how to apply medical treatment, which he didn't like to do; in Iraq for about one month, from February to March 1991. (04:50) Original mission was to impede the advance of the Iraqi Army into Saudi Arabia, though they had only light weapons to use against tanks; gap between what they were trained for and the reality on the ground; feelings going into combat; during a nighttime attack, preferring sleep to putting on his mask against possible chemical attack. (04:36) Surprised when he guarded three POWs that they all spoke English very well and that they "were just like us," with girlfriends back home; never had to shoot his weapon at anyone, but he saw it around him; fell into a bunker in the desert and thought he was in a booby trap; his friends laughing at him; one company mistreating Iraqi POWs but they were reprimanded. (03:08)
What he saw on the battlefield; thought he would see more violence and that the war would last longer; among his unit's missions was to capture Baghdad, but that was canceled at the last minute; he thought he would be killed if that operation was carried out. (01:08) Typically always on the move; bombing was continuous; bombing at night looked lightning flashing; shot at by Iraqi tanks on a foggy day with poor visibility; tanks destroyed by coalition helicopters; couldn't let his guard down; got one "day off," New Year's Day, when they were in an enclosed area and could play tennis or watch a movie. (04:34) Keeping a detailed journal; not knowing of anyone else in his unit doing so; recording their daily routines; the danger of carrying grenades. (02:26)
Regretting the war didn't accomplish two things: going into Baghdad and dealing with Kurds, who had supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. (00:52) Initial doubts about his decision to enlist when he arrived at Ft. Bragg for training; does not believe in regrets and vowing to do whatever it took to go home alive. (01:24) Was sure he would die if his unit parachuted into Baghdad as originally planned; they were supposed to capture the airport; not taking pills supposed to prevent illness because he heard they weren't FDA-approved. (02:59)
Reads March 2, 1991 journal entry, commenting on it as he reads; journal describing death of a US woman soldier, upcoming parade in Kuwait City, his concern that he cannot muster any tears for what he has seen and heard about. (05:01)  

Home » Martin Ernesto Fierro
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us