Chapter 8

The First Gulf War

Before our religious wedding, we learned that most of his colleagues would not have come.

To be honest, I did not pay too much attention to this. I was so concentrated in my wedding. Besides, they leave for sudden missions all the time, hence I thought it was nothing special.

Months later, I asked Jacques whether he was nervous or suspicious at that time, he swore he did not suspect anything.

I guess, 30 years later, with more life experience and emotional growth, we both reacted with what I call self –preservation.

We wanted to be happy and we were.

We might have seen or just felt some signals but we did not want something could compromise or ruin our happiness and excitement; without realizing it, we were not willing to see any sign.

That Wednesday morning it was his Captain informing him to go back to the Regiment because Saddam Hussein invaded the French Embassy in Kuwait and the French forces had to get ready to leave.

This was the message he received and explained to me in the most rational, simple and honest way.

As it has always happened in my life, in the real moments of despair in my life, my extreme rationality overcomes my emotions and I just hugged him not knowing what it would have happened, but having very clear in my mind, my heart belonged to him forever.

It did not matter what we were going to go through, we would have overcome that experience together.

We went back to Valence and Jacques spent the days before his departure working full time at the Regiment to get the tanks for the desert.

Every night, he would arrive home really exhausted but I remember we never missed an opportunity of living our love, our honeymoon and make memories for the next months.

Jacques left on his tank with his plotoon and I managed to take a picture of him waving from the tank and blowing me a kiss. I don’t think I suffered more I my life, apart when my Dad passed away and I was next to him.

I am not sure I can tell you my story with regards to Jacques being in the Gulf war. I would like to try to tell you what really happened in my heart but I don’t know if I am able.

Usually it is not hard for me to say what I feel and what my emotions are but this was the most difficult period of my life for many reasons.

I loved him, how could I live without him?

What would it have happened in the next months?

Would he have come back?

I can’t stop crying why I am typing.

My mind, my soul go back to those days.

When I blew him a kiss from the side of the highway where I went to see him, I don’t even know how I could take a photo.

I think my hand clicked on the camera without me realizing it. When I found the photos once home in Italy, it was totally unexpected.

He was gone. For how long, I had no idea. Nobody knew.

I drove back to Italy with the deepest sadness and despair in my heart.

I was 27 years old, I thought I found my happiness and the meaning of my life and everything collapsed in a day.

The first weeks were the hardest, I had to set my life, I had to create a daily pattern.

I am that type of person that needs a pattern, a daily routine. Without it, I lose my points of references and I am not happy.

Probably this is one of the reasons I work every day and I don’t find it hard; work gives me a pattern, a routine and I am balanced.

The hardest thing was the lack of info, I had to rely on my mother in law with whom I left my second fax machine. She would send me all articles she could find about the Regiment de Spahis and the French Army in general. I used that fax also to send my letters to Jacques. I could not send any letter from here. They had an address which was FRENCH ARMY POST OFFICE.

I wrote Jacques a letter every day .

He wrote when he could, of course.

The bad thing was that I would receive maybe three letters one week and then nothing for a month.

I kept a Journal where every single day for 187 days I wrote what was happening in Saudi Arabia where he was stationed , in Iraq , or in my heart.

In November he managed to call for 1 minute and that was the only time I heard his voice.

I saw him in an interview on the French TV when, by absolute chance, I was at my in-laws in Savoie to spend some time with them.

He was interviewed and appeared in the French TV show “ Envoyé Spécial”: I will not forget what I felt seeing him.

He was my man, as handsome as I recalled.

It was so moving to see him.

30 years have passed. I can swear, honest to God, that my heart is beating at an absolute different rate now and I am crying and it seems to me this happened a few months ago.

I have never forgotten the fear I had, and strangely enough, I never lost the conviction he would have come back to me.

I never lost hope; partly because I am a believer and I would go to church for a service or just a candle every day and felt God was next to me and would never leave me alone.

I was convinced of this.

I think I was growing stronger and stronger, his love, my faith and the absolute conviction he would come back to me never abandoned me.

January 17th 1991, after midnight, was the hardest day.

The war attack was declared and I knew, sooner or later, he would have been engaged in the ground attack.

February 24-28: this is the date of the ground attack .

Can’t deny I was frightened to death because of the threat of Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons.

I obviously could not have any news until all was over but I remember those days I wanted to feel stronger and stronger because, in my heart, I felt he would come home.

I never doubted it for a minute.

The cease fire was February 28th and mid-March I left, drove back to our home in Valence waiting for him to come back.

Those last days were unbearable.

I wanted to see him.

I did not want to wait one extra day.

He came back a week later than expected because they had to wait until the Minister of Defense was available to meet them and do his speech in Toulon.

Never understood these rules and those days seemed longer than any others in my life.

His parents arrived at our home with Jacques’ brother and grandfather.

It was March 28th and I was about to see Jacques after 187 days!

Someone rung at the door, that morning, before we left to the central Boulevard where the Defilé of the French most decorated Regiment would have done a huge Parade at 11 to be welcomed by the French people.

I can’t tell you how many red roses I received that morning.

Jacques had told his mother to buy me red roses, then he was afraid she would forget so he told his best friend Eric to buy more.

I was inundated with red roses.

Yes, Jacques was definitely coming home.

We left all together to go to the main Boulevard, I tried to recognize where he would have been and who he was, but to be honest, they all had their helmet, their uniform, they all looked the same to me.

I waved and blew kisses to everyone, better to kiss all of them than neglecting Jacques!

After an hour, we arrived at the Regiment where, at last, each family could see his son, husband or partner.

When I saw him, I jumped in his arms and hold him so tight, I think it was hard for him to breath correctly.

I remember his grandfather Paul, who loved me very much and was so kind with me during those long months, especially because he had been prisoner of war in Germany and did not see his wife for 4 years, told me “Anna, please, can we hug Jacques?”

Confident of what I was saying, confident I was totally right, I replied: “ of course, but I will not leave him, so you can hold him, but you will hold me too”.

I was so sure no one would have separated us anymore.

Absolutely sure!

He was as handsome and sexy as I knew him, even though his skin was full of grey wrinkles, I think staying in the desert and his ”war” hygiene made him look older.

But once home, after I got rid of all dirty underwear and after taking a bath he probably dreamed of for ages, he was, once again my Jacques!

Our love, our passion, our bond was stronger than ever.

We hadn’t seen each other for 187 days, nevertheless our bond was stronger than ever and it would have been this way until death would set us apart.

Only those of you who have experienced similar events in life can understand what I am talking about.

Our bond became eternal!

A week later his best friend in his hometown gave me a letter he left to give me in case he would not came back.

Christian, his friend, thought that I had to read it and keep it.

It was the most moving message Jacques could have left, touching, intense and passionate.

It is somewhere in this house, nobody knows where it is, apart me.

Nobody has read it and I will not tell anyone what’s in it.

It is Jacques essence and I will treasure it in my heart until I die.

It is the first time I write and explain in details what I felt and what happened in those days.

I would never write details of the war nor would enjoy making anyone of you feel pity for me or for us.

On the contrary, I am honoured to have been the wife of a soldier.

I am honoured of having married an Officer.

I am honored to be his wife.