“In memory of my friend, PFC Alan H. Benningfield, USN who fell during Operation Desert Storm, 1991. He was loved by so many and this is on behalf of all of us.”
Gena L. Eberhard
MEANING & HISTORY
In the summer of 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. The Saudi Arabian Government requested America’s assistance. While American and other world diplomats met in an attempt to avert a war, President George Herbert Walker Bush promptly ordered the deployment of U.S. ground, sea and air forces to the Saudi territory. So began the operation to defend Saudi Arabia that would be called "Desert Shield." The troops waited month after month for word of conflict and in hopes of peace. For their families back home, the wait was even more excruciating. During those long months, there was an unprecedented outpouring of letters to the troops poised in the Persian Gulf, from both loved ones and total strangers.
Among those writing was Mr. William DeLaney, whose son, Lt. William DeLaney, Jr., was proving his fortitude and patience.
On our 1991 “National Memorial Day Concert,” revered actor Eli Wallach read a letter from Mr. DeLaney to his son. Mr. DeLaney’s words speak eloquently for parents everywhere who have had their children wrenched from them and sent into the uncertainty of war.
MR. WILLIAM DELANEY’S LETTER TO HIS SON
(As related by Eli Wallach )
January 10, 1991
Yesterday the meeting between Baker and Hassis came to nothing and the war suddenly became probable. Now I feel I must race against time and try to tell you how much I love you. This is a letter I hoped never to write. I have not been an ideal father and to this day and for all the days that are left to me I will remember you as a small boy asking me to stay home with you and my not being able to tell you why I could not. A child’s love for a parent seems to endure no matter what, but I wish more than anything that you and your sister would never have had any occasion to forgive me. Wil, you’ve grown up straight, tall, handsome, smart and charming. I’m impressed not only with your worldliness but also your plain values of courage and truthfulness. No family has ever sent into the world a more decent young man and one more loved. Your mother and I, and indeed all of us, are humbled by the magnitude of the sacrifice you are prepared to make. We will never, ever be relieved of our sorrow if you are lost to us. Even now the pettiness and meanness and the shallowness of life are cast away when we think of you and the light you could always shine on us. If and when the day comes, remember that we are not so interested in glory and honor as much as the decency and compassion and love you show for others near you. Having chosen to risk so much for a cause you feel is just, I know you will always seek justice. If you leave us, depend on us seeking it in your name. My thoughts are with you now and always.
Love, from your father.
The Allied attack began on January 17, 1991 and ended with a cease fire on February 28, 1991. On June 8, 1991, the nation celebrated the troops return with a victory parade in Washington, DC.