Americans in Wartime Experience
January 11, 2022
On 17 January 1990, a coalition of 35 countries led by the United States embarked on a mission to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait which they had occupied since invading on 2 August 1990. For five weeks, coalition forces conducted an air campaign which was followed by a ground war on 24 February that lasted just 100 hours. The operation, code named Desert Storm, was the first major military action taken by the United States since the Vietnam War. Economic sanctions failed to persuade Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to pull his troops out of Kuwait prompting the use of military force.

The first troops on the ground shortly after the invasion of Kuwait were 12 Green Berets led by John Fenzel. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his grandfather was a World War I veteran and his father served after World War II in occupied Germany. John said that listening to his grandfather talk about his wartime experiences helped shape who he became. His father never pushed him to join the military, but told him to find some way to serve and become part of something bigger than himself. John knew he wanted to be a Green Beret after seeing the John Wayne movie of the same name.

About three days after the invasion, Captain Fenzel was advised by his commanding officer that he and his team would be the first troops to deploy. Upon landing in Saudi Arabia, Captain Fenzel who was a new team leader was told by the commanding officer of all special operations in the region that they were it. If Sadaam Hussein decided to send his army south, they would be the sole line of defense. As a Green Beret, learning how to develop combat multipliers was the key to successfully completing a mission of this kind. Captain Fenzel and his team became very good at doing just that.

Captain Fenzel and his team were successful in their mission as was the coalition. There were many firsts during the Gulf War, from the way air power was used, to the war being broadcast to the world live. In the end, it was the men and women of our military who were the deciding factor in the victory. It is veterans like Captain Fenzel, who would eventually earn the rank of colonel, and his team who lead the world against brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein and whose service we honor. We honor them by preserving their stories to educate and inspire future generations of Americans who may be someday called to stand on the front lines in the face of impossible odds.

Voices of Freedom Year in Review

2021 began with much uncertainty, but the Voices of Freedom had a fantastic bounce back year after 2020, a year of shutdowns and canceled events. We were able to conduct 70 interviews with veterans who served from World War II, to the current War on Terror. Along the way, we forged mutually beneficial relationships with two organizations that are very different, but have a similar goal - to honor those who served.

In February and again in April, Edinburg VFW 2447 hosted us for interviews. Eleven interviews were conducted over the course of both days. In June we were out at the American Military Heritage Museum's Open House in Stevens City. Three World War II veterans were interviewed including one of whom was held as a POW and then escaped.

We were back on the road at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend in Reading, PA, and again at the Warbirds Over the Beach Air Show hosted by the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. Both events were canceled in 2020. Both are on our annual schedule and both are a rich environment for interviewing veterans.

In August we were invited to the Military Veterans Memorial at Arlington Cemetery where they hosted an event honoring women who served. We conducted 13 interviews over 2 days. We were back again in October for more interviews which included veterans who are currently serving as tomb guards. We conducted an additional interview at their offices in Falls Church in November.

In a first for the Voices of Freedom and the museum, we participated in the tailgate party at the Army vs. Navy game at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey. We partnered with the Armed Forces Brewing Company, and along with former Navy SEAL'S, Robert O’Neill, Ray “Cash” Care, and Darren “MCB” McBurnett, we promoted both our brands and live-streamed a portion of the event on Facebook and Instagram. We had such a great spot that you could see us clearly in the background of the ESPN Pre-game Newscast. We had lots of people stop by and say hi which included several current and former members of the military, as well as Fox News personalities, Kennedy, Emily Compagno, and Kat Timpf. We thank them all for their support! We learned a lot from this experience and look forward to future collaborations with the Armed Forces Brewing Company.

One of the most exciting things that happened in 2021 was the purchase of a new mobile recording studio. The RV that we had been using for 7 years was beginning to show it’s age. It has been an absolute workhorse for us, but it was time for an upgrade. Because of a generous donation, we were able to purchase a 26’ toy hauler which we had custom wrapped and outfitted the inside to turn it into a recording studio. Additionally, we purchased a truck and had it custom wrapped to pull the trailer. In July we participated in the Dale City Independence Day Parade and received first prize for best decorated vehicle.

As 2021 comes to a close, we have already started making plans for 2022. We had a great year and plan to forge ahead to keep the momentum going. In addition to our annual events, we will be looking for new partnerships, and ways to build on those already made. In January, we will be launching a new podcast so be on the lookout for that.

Finally, we want to thank you all of you for your support. Nothing we do can happen without that support and it is appreciated more than you know. Thank you!!
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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