Desert Shield veteran Robert Bailey served for the love of it, out of a familial dedication and out of true service.
Bailey was 19 when he joined the military. He had grown up with two uncles that went to Vietnam and a father who had served in the Navy.
“We’ve had someone in our family in every war back to the Revolutionary War when we declared our freedom from England,” Bailey stated.
No one, however, had served in the Air Force, so Bailey says he dedicated himself to doing whatever the Air Force needed of him.
Bailey joined the Air Force in 1976 as a member of the Security Police Canine Corps.
“We were used for drug dog training, bomb dog training, perimeter control and tracking,” Bailey explained.
He also did four years in Strategic Air Command (SAC).
After his time was up, Bailey went home, got married, had a son and went to work for Shawnee Forest.
However, determined to keep up with his two younger brothers who had joined the Navy, Bailey decided to go Navy reserves at the Portsmouth Naval Academy.
Bailey remembered how his brothers would tease once the war started, saying the military wouldn’t call for a reserve. Bailey said he joked back that it would be guys like him clearing the way for “young pups” like his brothers.
Then, really to his surprise, Bailey got a call saying he was being deployed in 1991.
He left his job, wife and young son to go to war.
While in the Gulf War, Bailey befriended a camel. Since he was a young child, he loves animals. One night he went missing, and his parents found him asleep next to a well, under a quilt between his hunting dogs Spot and Valley.
“I had a fondness for dogs since I was just a little fart,” Bailey commented.
When riding across the desert on a bus, Bailey saw wild camels. Due to his excitement, the driver stopped the bus. Bailey got out and got personal. The wild camels let him pet them and even get a photo, though they were apprehensive of his friend.
There were battles and death. Bailey remembers going into a mission being told to expect losses of one in four. Still, there were other moments that were unforgettable for other reasons. He remembers oil fires that would turn day to night and rain oil upon the soldier’s uniforms.He also remembers the gold shops in Dubai, where he bought a coming home present for his wife.
Due to an accident, Bailey was injured at war, and injury that would later make him a disabled vet. He remembers coming home and being forgotten as soldiers of a war he says is rarely talked about. He also came home jobless, to discover his job had been done away with. And, he had a son to raise.
Despite his war injury, he went back to work before reinjuring himself on a job clearing trees during an ice storm.
Looking back, war brings him stories that still bring a chuckle but also required quite a sacrifice as he gave years with his family to face death in a war he says in rarely remembered. He stands a forgotten soldier.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.