At precisely 03:03, Damien's F-16
screamed past the West End of the airfield. Everyone stepped outside the trailer to watch as the Viper disappeared into the night. Twenty seconds later, the ground began to shake as Rip's
jet lifted off. The sound was piercing, and as the afterburner cooked, flaming streaks of orange and blue extended from the aircraft's tail. One by one, each F-16 was swallowed by the darkness. The last aircraft was airborne within three minutes, and as soon as it disappeared, the base was quiet again.
I walked back to my room and set my alarm for 05:15. I wanted to make sure I was on the flight line to greet my friends when they returned from their mission.
When the alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, laced up my boots, and headed back to the o'club. Cuda and Tonto
joined me, and the three of us arrived in time to hear a local radio station interrupt its program with a speech by President George Bush. Standing beneath a speaker in the marble entryway, the three of us listened as our president began: "Just two hours ago, Allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak. Ground forces are not engaged..."
As I stood in the corridor and listened to the president, chills ran
down my spine. I was extremely proud to be an American, and it was hard to hold back the tears, knowing Colette was sitting at home, frightened, listening to the same speech. As the president continued to speak, my thoughts turned toward my friends. They should have dropped their bombs by now and, God willing, be on their way home.