What was it like serving in Desert Storm?

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Eldon Woodie speaks to members and guests of the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club during a July 3 lunch at Shelby Baptist Medical Center. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Eldon Woodie speaks to members and guests of the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club during a July 3 lunch at Shelby Baptist Medical Center. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ginger Branson vividly remembers having to hurriedly put on her gas mask and chemical suit every time her unit received a warning of incoming Scud missiles.

“It took about five minutes to get everything on. It happened so frequently that we pretty much had the masks on all the time,” Branson said.

Branson, who served for several months in 1991 at the Army’s 251st Evacuation Hospital in Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid Military City, was among the veterans honored during a July 3 Independence Day celebration hosted by the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club at Alabaster’s Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

While serving at the city’s hospital – which was built by Saudi Arabian leaders as an exact replica of an American hospital – during Operation Desert Storm, Branson and her unit admitted more than 2,250 patients and performed 428 major operations.

Per the country’s laws, only women were allowed to work in the hospital. Although no Scud missiles hit the military city directly, there were some close calls, Branson said.

“The Patriot Missile operators were our heroes. Every time we saw them, we would salute them,” Branson said.

The July 3 ceremony featured the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Taps” performed by University of Montevallo student Courtney Moody, and honored all of America’s veterans on the eve of the nation’s birthday.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Eldon Woodie, who led the Thompson High School Junior ROTC for four years, said U.S. military history is ingrained in America’s history as a whole.

“You can’t understand U.S. history without talking about military history,” Woodie said. “Tomorrow, our nation will be 238 years old. The U.S. Army turned 239 in June.”

Woodie praised today’s youth, and said they are equipped to be as successful as any previous generation.

“They need the same thing our grandfathers did. They need leadership, the right equipment and they need the support of the public,” Woodie said. “You can be proud of your family members, your neighbors and friends who serve in the military.”