In 1991, Jay Johnson, a military policeman in operation Desert Storm, was falsely reported dead to his family and friends. It was the largest number of casualties in the entire operation; 28 soldiers were killed and 100 were wounded after the defense mechanism failed to engage. Jay was fine, but he witnessed some pretty horrific things that day.
After high school, Jay decided to take a year off from school and work full time. He ended up getting a job at the Seabrook power plant as a security guard. Most of the men he worked with were military veterans, and they enjoyed talking to him about the war. In the late 80’s, Jay got laid off from the power plant. It was then he decided to join the Army.
He worked in the reserves as a general security officer against terrorism for three years. He spent two of those years in Texas and the last year in Fort Devens, MA. In September of 1990, Jay and his fellow officers volunteered to go into operation Desert Shield; however, due to complications, they got declined.
Three months later, on December 2nd, he was told that he was finally able to be deployed into active duty. “Then [he] was shipped halfway around the world to get shot at.” He was transferred to Iraq for the Desert Shield operation he initially signed up for. He said that’s where “he learned what mattered and what doesn’t.”
Following Desert Shield, Jay was placed into active duty in Saudi Arabia for the Desert Storm operation. He didn’t tell us any stories from Saudi Arabia, he said, “it’s hard to tell someone my stories because most of them you really don’t want to hear.”
He learned a lot about the culture in Saudi Arabia. It was a lot different than the culture in America. When the shooting stopped, Jay and his crew were allowed to go into town. Jay, two men, and a woman he was good friends with decided to go to the mall together. They were all wearing blue jeans and plain white t-shirts. A Saudi Arabian man handed Jay a paper, which he didn’t think much of. When they left, his buddy looked at it and it was a warning for guarding a female that was not properly dressed in public.
He laughed when he told us this story because it was him who got in trouble for the woman he was with since she was not wearing proper attire. It was considered his fault because women were not allowed to leave the house without a male, so anything the woman does wrong in public is considered the men’s fault.
Jay was able to keep in touch with his family through mainly sending letters. Sometimes he could make phone calls, but cell phones weren’t common in 1990, so he had to wait for the telephone that everyone was able to use on the camp.
Jay’s crew didn’t have much free time because most days they would work up to 18 hours, go to bed, and wake up the next day to do it all over again. Although, when they were given free time, they enjoyed listening to music and playing card games. They even had a volleyball court.
When he got home from Saudi Arabia, he took a week off and then went right back to work. He worked as a Merrimac police officer for a while, and currently works as a West Newbury police officer. He has two sons who are in the army, another son who is a medic in the army, and his daughter in law is also in the military.