A blast from the past
I recently moved into a house with enough room to get everything out of storage. This comes from one of those stored treasures. The date was, Fri 30 Sep 94.
Gonaives, Haiti. Time has lost all meaning except for determining when I'm scheduled for radio watch. It's difficult to recall when this madness all began. I returned to work, after my 3 weeks leave finished, on 6 Sep. It was, I believe, 9 Sep when we received word of our involvement in the Haiti invasion. We worked 14-16 hour days until we left on or about 13 Sep. It was difficult adjusting from being home all the time to being gone all the time, even harder leaving [my wife and son] not yet 4 weeks old.
The invasion was to take place at 0200 on the 19th but was called off just hours before. Rumors had it that Clinton was stared down by Cedras. We flew into Port-au-Prince (PAP) International Airport the afternoon of the 20th and waited there under the belly of a dilapidated 707 for some 4 days getting abused by the 10th MTN DIV CDR.
We finally arrived here and some 110 soldiers set up home in a building designed for 30 (at Haitian standards). Our LZ was a soccer field next to the FAD'H barracks which was completely surrounded by thousands of locals, when I stepped off the CH-47, who cheered our arrival. A couple that could speak English expressed gratitude and said they could now live in safety from the local police/military. Words can't express the scene that we saw.
The FAD'H were not as pleased to see us. They had gotten used to controlling the populace with violence. The people knew we wouldn't allow it to continue and it took a few days for us to get some control on the situation.
One scene showed a member of the FAD'H approach the crowd with a large stick and struck the ground several times. The crowd at first ran from the implied danger then someone ran out and snatched the stick from the officers' hand and the crowd cheered as he waved it above his head triumphantly; all symbolic of the FAD'Hs sudden loss of power.
Things have quieted after the first 2-3 days of semi chaos with plenty of pilfering and looting. A small amount still continues.
Today marks the 3rd anniversary of Cedras' rise to power and the locals have taken to the streets in large, peaceful demonstrations celebrating his demise. One sign in the crowd actually read, "Without America, No Life, No Democracy."
MAJ O has become a popular guy. He's been interviewed by reporters from Newsweek, Time, London Times, CNN, ABC, NBC and countless others not including the local radio stations. He's given a number of public speeches, all of which have been well received. He keeps joking about running for president. (He could probably succeed.)
I've become fairly popular too; but just among the soldiers. We've managed to contact the Maritime Mobile net at 14.3 MHz for phone patches. I've managed to get a couple of call in myself. The first one on our anniversary 2 days ago.