Desert Storm: Visit of Hitman Tommy Hearns

We would deploy at the end of October. I don’t think anyone was nervous at this point — we’d gotten beyond that. There was a point of acceptance and anxiety that seeped in. We could see in the news that things were happened, and we couldn’t pretend like the deployment was going to get canceled.

We didn’t have anything to do at all, so our company commander tried to give us as much time off as possible. He’d have us come in for formation, then go home, but the battalion nixed that very fast. He ended up giving us half days off instead.

We also got a visit from boxing champion Tommy Hearns, who stopped by our company as part of a publicity visit for the war. In writing this, I also discovered that he came over to Saudi Arabia to visit the soldiers as well, so that was pretty cool. I grew up in Hollywood and lived and breathed all that star stuff, and unfortunately, the celebrity default tends to be anti-war. Meaning, they get out and pontificate about no more war and pretend like there aren’t real people overseas. Soldiers are really isolated during war, so it’s special when a celebrity like Tommy Hearns or Bob Hope visit because it connects us back to the real world.

Tommy Hearns was from Detroit, so he was going to visit with two soldiers from Detroit. But first, we were going to have a photo opp for the press, which included a demonstration of a first aid task. I ended up being the “victim.” My squad leader grabbed a ketchup packet from the mess hall to simulate blood.

The task was how to apply a field bandage, which is the first bandage you put on a wound to stop the bleeding in the battlefield. We all would carry a small one as part of our every day equipment. A much larger version is visible in many episodes of the TV series M*A*S*H. The field bandage is thick, layered cotton with attached straps to tie around an arm or a leg.

My squad leader squirted the ketchup on my bare arm and I stood still while Tommy Hearns applied the field bandage. As part of the visit, he’d been given one of the Desert camouflage shirts and a Boonie hat.

After he finishing with the field dressing, he went inside the barracks to see the rooms of the Detroit soldiers and visit with them. Of course, I’m not sure what he thought of the barracks!