Featured Veteran: Jeffrey Sacks

Jeffrey Sacks was photographed during the Jewish War Veterans Convention in 2014. Sacks served in the Army as military police starting in 1979. We are honored he was able to share his deployment to Saudi Arabia in 1991.

Veterans Portrait Project

In 1990, Sacks took command of the 822nd Military Police Company in the U.S. Army Reserve located in the Chicago suburbs.  He was a full time Chicago Police Officer and also a Captain in the Illinois Army National Guard.  The 822nd MP Company was in need of a new commander due to poor ratings earned at the unit’s previous annual training to the Philippines performing a real world mission.  He set upon making all the unit’s soldiers, NCOs, and officers responsible concerning their individual and unit equipment (weapons, radios, chemical warfare, Humvees, etc).   In December of the same year, he and his command received orders mobilizing the company in support of Operation Desert Shield – Attaboy.

Near As Sarrar%2c Saudi Arabia%2c late Winter 1991
Sacks in Saudia Arabia, Winter of 1991

On January 3, 1991, the rest of the company (slightly less than 200 soldiers) entered active duty and convoyed from their reserve center to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, to prepare for our deployment to Saudi Arabia.

Wisconsin was its usual weather in winter with sub zero temperatures and two feet of snow was on the ground at Fort McCoy as they trained for life in the desert.  The hills of snow helped them train to drive for what their near future would be hills of sand. They also had to paint some forty tactical vehicles sand color from their woodland camouflage pattern in the freezing cold motor pool area.  Sacks and his unit all re-qualified on old pistols (were using M1911 and M1911A1’s .45 caliber pistols, M16A1 rifles, M60 machine-guns, M2 .50 caliber Browning machine-guns, and M203 grenade launchers).  Sacks describes, “MP’s come to the party heavily armed”.

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With their training, they were asked to be a part of a mission. They were ordered to become a Prisoner of War MP Company.  “So we trained to perform the new mission and ordered everything we would need to perform our new mission.  Funny story – we ordered the amount of Lindane powder (kills lice on POW’s) we determined we would need to delouse the POW’s in our custody.  We got what we ordered and a week later we got a call from the Pentagon to return it as we now possessed the entire supply of Lindane powder for whole Department of Defense.  My Operations Sergeant, Supply Sergeant and I were just quicker thinkers than the brass at the big five sided building,” Sacks explained.

In February 1991, they took their flight on a chartered TWA 747 en-route from Volk Field Air National Guard Base to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.  “Lucky me, I got to sit in 1st class as I was the flight commander because most of the passengers were under my command and several senior field grade officers also traveling on the plane were more than happy to let me carry on.”  In the middle of the air war phase of Operation Desert Storm, they arrived to a land with a one hundred degree difference. Buses took them to Khobar Towers in Dhahran where they settled in their quarters and were assigned to a temporary mission of base defense.  Soon after, they had to split the company and send Sacks’ Third Platoon to the Port of Dammam where the Theater Aviation Maintenance Facility had been set up and needed protection. Sacks recollects, “My most vivid recollection of this time comes on the first Tuesday of every month when the City of Chicago tests the emergency sirens.  I am brought back to those same sirens followed by a public address announcement of SCUD Launch / SCUD Attack from base operations indicating that tactical ballistic missile(s) were inbound towards us.  Then the Patriot Air Defense Artillery Batteries collocated by us would fire at these inbound missiles.  One of the SCUD missiles landed very near us on February 26th, 1991, destroying a nearby barracks and killing 27 fellow reservists and injuring 98 more from a Pennsylvania Quartermaster outfit.  The ground shook like an earthquake when it landed.  This missile attack was the most devastating Iraqi stroke of the Persian Gulf War.  I wasn’t feeling that lucky to be a “REMF” that day.  I checked on my unit in both locations and all personnel were accounted for.  At 0300 hours I wasn’t able to sleep and I was listening to a BBC radio broadcast of the bad news concerning the attack, so by 0315 hours I was at the AT&T satellite phone bank in the pitch black dark making a very expensive call to the family support group to let them know we were all okay. I got a hold of my mother at her employer and she activated the telephone tree.”

As Sarrar%2c Saudi Arabia%2c East POW Camp%2c late Winter 1991
Jeffrey Sacks in Sarrar, Saudi Arabia (East POW camp), late Winter 1991

Through some heavy memories, Jeffrey Sacks shared some worthy stories from the POW Mission in March of 1991:

“One day in the middle of our tent encampment a Bedouin kid wearing the traditional red and white checked Keffiyeh comes walking in about a mile away from the POW camp and from out in the desert – sand as far as the eyes could see.  We showed him hospitality and he stayed for a meal.  He wanted to buy Marlboro’s from us and feeling sorry for him my unit armorer offered him a pack.  The kid proceeds to pull out a roll of U.S. currency that still makes me envious.”

“One 15-year-old Prisoner of War was marched into our camp wearing a Chicago Cubs t-shirt and Iraqi Army fatigue pants.  We pulled him out of the line of prisoners and spoke to him learning he had gone to Iraq in 1990 to visit his grandparents and got forcibly drafted into the Iraqi Army even though he was U.S. citizen.  Well being a Chicagoland based reserve unit we welcomed him, cleaned him up and eventually got him repatriated after debriefing from the intel guys.” Jeffrey Sacks ended this story with saying he is more of a Chicago White Sox fan.

Sacks says that deployment changed his life. Within a year of returning home, he became ill with a rare auto immune disease possibly linked to the then-classified Secret Anthrax inoculations. He accepted early medical disability retirement as a Major in the US Army Reserve in 1997. His children are also veterans. One is currently serving in Afghanistan where he is a commissioned officer serving as a Special Agent in the USAF Office of Special Investigation, and his stepson in the Field Artillery was injured by an improvised explosive device blast, earning the Purple Heart. He also has four grandchildren and another on the way.

Today, Jeffrey Sacks is active in the VFW, Jewish War Veterans, The American Legion. He is also a Mason and Shriner. When sharing his story, his final line was too good not to share. “Frankly I don’t know how I ever found time to earn money.”

© Veteran portrait by Stacy L. Pearsall, story by Des’ola Mecozzi

 

One thought on “Featured Veteran: Jeffrey Sacks

  1. Sir, I can’t believe that I’ve finally located you. It was great reading about the 822nd’s path from Rosemont to the sandbox. I still communicate with Mike Giliberto and see Facebook postings of Krainik every now and then. I’m also a member of the Bellwood VFW. Also, Imburgia and Giliberto visited me at the VFW some years ago. We are now first time grandparents of a two year old. I want to thank you for your leadership during Desert Storm. I truly believe that lives were spared during our deployment. I appreciate the experiences that I acquired that can be compared to my tour in Nam. All of this helped me to become a better human being. I appreciate being able to serve alongside you and the finest MP’s ever to cross the desert. I appreciate you allowing me to return home early due to my torn Achilles’ tendon which I’m still treating 25 years later. I appreciate that I was able to serve and accomplish most of our missions before departing. Again, thank you for being a caring Company Commander who considered your soldiers first and foremost…….MSG Bijou (ret)

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