The VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association hosted its 27th anniversary reunion dinner to commemorate the coalition victory during Desert Storm at the Courtyard by Marriott in Killeen on Saturday.
Association members, family members and active-duty soldiers from Fort Hood gathered on the same day that 27 years ago saw the beginning of the ground offensive against Iraq’s obsolete and war-weary army. The VII Corps played a vital role in expelling Iraqi forces from and liberating Kuwait.
Retired Gen. Frederick Franks Jr. commanded VII Corps during Desert Storm and said Killeen was selected as this year’s reunion location because of the high concentration of Desert Storm veterans in Central Texas. Franks said it’s always a privilege to see the men and women he led into combat in person.
“I feel humbly privileged to have had the opportunity to command VII Corps during Desert Storm,” Franks said. “It was their courage and great skill, their teamwork and great discipline that was right at the heart of our victory 27 years ago.”
Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the III Corps and Fort Hood commander, addressed reunion attendees via video conference from his deployed location in the Middle East.
“From over 7,000 miles away, it is our honor to welcome you to the VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association reunion weekend,” Funk said. “I would like to personally recognize retired Gen. Fred Franks, the architect of the largest and most powerful Army corps ever built in our Army. Sir, your steadfast leadership soundly defeated the Iraqi Republican Guard.”
This year’s reunion guest speaker was Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander, who is also a Desert Storm veteran.
“As I scanned the attendance roster and looked across the room, the word that repeatedly came to mind was legend,” Thomson said. “Legends that courageously served in Vietnam, legends that rebuilt and transformed our Army, legends that trained us to fight and win and legends that led us to a decisive victory in Desert Storm.”
Earlier on Saturday as part of the reunion, a tree planting ceremony was held at Fort Hood’s Cooper Field and a memorial service was conducted at the Operation Iraqi Freedom dining facility in honor of the 111 U.S. and United Kingdom service members who made the ultimate sacrifice during the conflict.
The corps, which provided the main armor units during the first Gulf War, was inactivated in Germany in 1992, said current association President Mark Rado. The fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War precluded the need for two corps-level units in Europe to deter communist aggression from the former USSR.
“(The association) was formed in 1995 by a nucleus of officers and (noncommissioned officers), including Gen. Fred Franks, who served in the corps during Desert Storm/Desert Shield,” Rado said. “It was for the purpose of maintaining the history and lineage of the corps and to honor the 111 U.S. and British soldiers serving under VII Corps who gave their lives during Desert Storm.”