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Together Again

Mike had been trapped in Kuwait City throughout the war and not heard from since mid-December. It was the best kind of middle-of-the-night phone call: Mike is OK!

On March 4, at 4:46 a.m., I answered the phone. It was an AT&T operator telling me that Mike was OK and among thousands in line waiting to use the telephones. Only a few outgoing phone lines had been reestablished, and Mike had waited for his chance to make one call. The call from the operator was to make sure I would be home so I wouldn't miss that 'one' call.

About 45 minutes later, the phone rung again. "Mott?" he asked. I'd never been able to allow a good opportunity to be a prankster pass by me, so I asked "Who is this? have the wrong this an obscene phone call?" Honestly, I was overwhelmed with emotion and that was my way of avoiding an outburst of tears.

In the five minute conversation, he told that some fighting was still going on, and that not all the Iraqis left in Kuwait City had gotten the news of the cease-fire. No one was being allowed to leave the city but he felt he might get out sometime in the next week. Therefore, no one knew exactly when Mike would be coming home.

Not one, but two weeks later, Mike was granted permission to exit Kuwait and traveled south toward Saudi Arabia. He telephoned from Bahrain, but at the time hadn't made flight arrangements. He also mentioned that I wouldn't hear from him again until he arrived in Shreveport. He wanted his arrival to be a surprise...that's what he said, but I knew he was avoiding the media.

Alisa, a reporter for the Shreveport Times just happened to be at the Shreveport Regional airport on the evening of March 16, 1991. She was expecting some of the local Air Force personnel who had been in Kuwait to arrive, and like any reporter, she was hot on their trail for an interview. Mike was on that flight.

In the meantime, he telephoned and was ready for someone to pick him up at the airport. Since we lived about 45 minutes from Shreveport, he had to wait.

After Alisa interviewed the soldiers, she saw Mike and recogonized him from the many photos she had seen at the Times and on the local news broadcasts. She approached him and began talking to him. Before Mike knew it, he had been interviewed...the very thing he was trying to avoid.

Alisa writes:

Mike came home Saturday night after eight months in Kuwait, greeting his wife, Mott, and their children with a smile and a jestful "What took you so long?"

Mike, a Louisiana oilworker, had been trapped in his native Kuwait for eight months after the family had gone there to visit his relatives last July. Mott, Millie, and Michael were allowed to leave in September but Mike was detained because he was not an American citizen.

He arrived at Shreveport Regional Airport at about 8 p.m. Saturday, called his wife, and waited. When she and their children arrived, Mike embraced them as he said, "Don't ever leave me again."

He was only half-kidding.

"We've been waiting a long time for this," Mott said. She teased him about getting his accent back and said, "I have a ton of questions." So did the Shreveport media who talked to Mike while he waited for his family.

He told a story of loneliness away from his family, of fear of roaming Iraqis, and of sheer joy the day Kuwait City was liberated.

Mike may have narrowly ecaped death or capture by Iraqis in those waning hours of the war. He was preparing to go to the mosque when his brother warned him to stay away, saying he'd heard Iraqis were shooting worshippers and burning religious sites.

Most of the time he stayed inside his brother's home, which housed 12 family members. "I was afraid" of the Iraqis, he said. "They went into homes, robbed and burned them, then took their automobiles." He said he heard of atrocities against Kuwaitis but never witnessed any personally.

At 3 a.m., January 17 he was awakened by bombing and knew the war had started. "The bombing was almost non-stop." He said. "At times it would shake the windows of the house. If we didn't hear it for a few hours, we thought something was wrong."

He could see the white trails of allied fighters and hear Iraqis shooting back--and missing, he said.

Two weeks before the war ended, water and electricity were cut off. Each section of the city got water only once every 10 days. Residents filled bathtubs and any container they could find.

They cooked with butane, and neighbors sent surplus food to those who didn't have as much. They had some news via radio but learned firsthand of the Iraqi retreat from the city. From their roof at midnight, he and his sister heard the tanks rumbling out of town.

"We knew what was happening," he said. "in the morning people were out of their homes. It was over...we felt relief."

For Mike, the most difficult time of the eight months was not the hardship of being under siege but being apart from his family.

"The worst day of my life was when my family left on September 12," he said. "I went into my room and it was empty. I just sat down and cried. I felt as if the world would just blank out." "I went outside and walked and walked," he said. "I was trembling. I knew it would be bad. I didn't expect it to go for so long."

When we arrived home from the airport that Saturday evening, our home was filled with reporters, neighbors, family members, co-workers--even a few of the neighborhood pets were there--to greet Mike and welcome him home. Following all the hugs, everyone gathered around, held hands, prayed and thanked God for bringing a family together again.

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