McCloud reflects on serving in Desert Storm
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — John McCloud of the Bellaire area is the St. Clairsville American Legion’s Veteran of the Month for January, bringing the honor to a younger generation than usual.
While many prior veterans of the month served in the military during the World War II, Vietnam or Korean eras, McCloud’s U.S. Army service was more recent, from 1988-93.
“I served in Desert Storm. I was infantry,” he said.
McCloud said his decision to join was motivated by the opportunities the military could provide.
“I knew how much college was going to cost, and I didn’t want my parents to have to pay for it,” he said. “I was infantry in Europe. We were activated and went from Germany to Desert Storm. In my unit, I was in the command element and worked with the Air Force. If my unit needed air support, I drove an Air Force lieutenant around,” McCloud said. “If our unit needed air support they would contact my vehicle and coordinate the air strikes.”
McCloud was largely reticent about his experiences during the conflict, but he described one close call toward the end of his time in the Middle East.
“The day I was leaving, we were taking all our vehicles to a spot in Kuwait to get on a plane. I was the only one who ran over a landmine that was there. We were all in a straight line. It was an anti-personnel mine, and it did affect us – I was in a big tracked vehicle – but it scared me,” he said.
“I could actually see the plane and was thinking, ‘Well this would be a great place to get blowed up,'” he said. “It was the loudness of it. It happened so fast, you don’t know if it was something that really damaged the vehicle. You kind of look around and see” if anyone was killed or injured.
He said such incidents were a common hazard.
“The Air Force would drop cluster bombs. They’d drop the bomb and it would break open and all these little mines would implant themselves. There’d be strays out there they didn’t clear.”
He added, however, that the operation was run very efficiently. He also noticed striking differences in the environment between Ohio and the desert.
He returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in 1991 but had the opportunity to view more of the Old World first.
“I loved Europe. I loved Germany,” he said. “When we got back to Germany from Desert Storm, the sergeant major got me an all-expense-paid trip to Berchtesgaden on administrative leave. I got to go see Hitler’s headquarters and the tunnels underneath the mountain that Hitler had dug out. It was nice.”
In civilian life, McCloud worked in decontamination at nuclear power plants.
“Whenever they refuel a nuclear reactor, they take the old rods out. We go in and (decontaminate) the reactor core and they put new ones in,” he said. “I got to see a lot of the country that way.”
He currently does pipeline work.
McCloud remains active in veterans’ groups and has helped send care packages to troops serving overseas since 2008.
“When you get a care package in the service, it means a lot, so I want to keep that going,” he said.
McCloud is a lifetime member of the VFW and American Legion. He has served as a past district commander of the American Legion, and was a district commander in 2010.
“I was a Special Olympics chairman for the Legion in Belmont County and the district in the early 2000s. … I used to run the Special Olympics track meets at Belco Crafts,” he noted.