Desert Storm vet to march in 25th an­niver­sary cer­e­mony

North East man one of 11 from Md.

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS


— Re­tired U.S. Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jim Ayres gets a lit­tle choked up when asked how he might feel dur­ing the up­com­ing 25th an­niver­sary re­mem­brance march for Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm to take place in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., this week­end.

“I get to do what my great­grand­fa­ther did, walk down Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue as my fam­ily watches. And I get to walk with 499 oth­ers who I con­sider to be heroes,” the North East man said. “For the ser­vice­men and women, it’s a big deal to have your


fam­ily be a part of it with you, be­cause they weren’t able to be there with you when it hap­pened.”

The march, which will co­in­cide with the cap­i­tal’s an­nual Memo­rial Day pa­rade on Mon­day, harkens back to June 8, 1991, when al­most 9,000 ser­vice mem­bers marched in the Na­tional Vic­tory Cel­e­bra­tion for the Gulf War, parad­ing along Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue and cross­ing the Memo­rial Bridge into Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery, where they could pay their re­spects to the 383 men and women who did not make it home. Ayres, who was un­able to at­tend the last pa­rade be­cause he was a mem­ber of the 1709 Pro­vi­sional Air Wing that stayed af­ter com­bat ended in Iraq, said he is thrilled to be among the 11 vet­er­ans to rep­re­sent Mary­land in the pa­rade.

Born and raised in Ti­mo­nium as one of seven chil­dren, Ayres joined the ser­vice to see the world and find a ca­reer. He en­listed in the Air Force af­ter high school to work on air­planes and was sent to Lack­land Air Force Base in Texas, where he be­came trained as a para­chute rig­ger and life sup­port spe­cial­ist.

In his time in the ser­vice, Ayres has been around the world sev­eral times, but few as­sign­ments com­pared to the one he got in Oc­to­ber 1990.

“I was de­ployed Oct. 10, 1990, and I spent my 29th birth­day fly­ing into Jed­dah, Saudi Ara­bia,” he said. “We didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know what we would be do­ing, but we knew it was only a mat­ter of time un­til we hit Iraq. Wher­ever the Marines went, we were their fly­ing gas sta­tion.”

His wife was 7 months preg­nant at the time of his de­ploy­ment and he was only able to talk to her twice while over­seas. The com­bat in the Gulf War lasted only 43 days, how­ever, and Ayres re­turned home at the end of Fe­bru­ary 1991. As sup­port per­son­nel, he wasn’t on the front lines en­gag­ing the Iraqi Army, but none­the­less, the cam­paign left an im­pres­sion on him.

“The out­come was phe­nom­e­nal, with a lot of credit to U.S. Army Gen. Nor­man Sch­warzkopf,” he said. “Desert Storm is def­i­nitely the ex­am­ple for how to en­gage: you go in, kick butt and come home.”

Ayres later went on to serve as part of the No Fly Zone es­tab­lished dur­ing Op­er­a­tion De­ci­sive En­deavor of the Bos­nian War. He re- tired in 2003 af­ter 22 years in the Air Force.

While he’s im­mensely proud of his mil­i­tary ser­vice, he’s per­haps even more proud of rais­ing a healthy fam­ily, whom he re­lo­cated to Ce­cil County six years ago. He was on Face­book re­cently when a friend sent him a link about the Na­tional Desert Storm War Memo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion, seek­ing to find vet­er­ans to march in the an­nual Memo­rial Day pa­rade. He ap­plied and sub­mit­ted for a records check, only to re­ceive an in­vi­ta­tion by email in the days later. He was one of 500 cho­sen out of the 640,000 who served in the Gulf War.

The pa­rade will serve to re­mem­ber the 383 who were killed in the Gulf War as well as raise aware­ness about fundrais­ing ef­forts to build a Na­tional Desert Storm War Memo­rial on the Na­tional Mall in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“While fore­most our mis­sion at the Na­tional Desert Storm War Memo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion is to build a mon­u­ment to our fallen broth­ers and sis­ters, we are also com­mit­ted to hon­or­ing the many hun­dreds of thou­sands of men and women who left homes, jobs, and fam­i­lies to stand up for Amer­ica’s val­ues,” said Scott Stump, founder, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional Desert Storm War Memo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion. “We are so glad that vet­er­ans like Mas­ter Sgt. Jim Ayres is march­ing with us to teach Amer­i­cans about the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice made by all vet­er­ans of Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm.”

For Ayres, the mon­u­ment has been a pas­sion­ate cause, as he wants to make sure that all who served in the Gulf War will be able to see it.

“Let’s get this thing mov­ing and get it done, be­cause if we wait much longer a lot of those who served in it won’t be around any­more,” he said.


U.S. Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jim Ayres is seen here in Jed­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, as­signed to King Ab­du­laziz In­ter­na­tional Air­port as part of the 1709 Pro­vi­sional Air Wing, in 1990-91.


U.S. Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jim Ayres holds a com­mem­o­ra­tive T-shirt that he will wear Mon­day in the 25th an­niver­sary march for Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm.

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