Oral History of Garrick Shannon

The small country of Kuwait was protected by British forces until 1961. When the protection of the British forces ended, Kuwait joined the Arab league to create its own constitution and form a national assembly to claim its independence. Finally by 1963, Iraq gave up its claim on Kuwait.  Kuwait’s independence upset Saddam Hussein which ultimately fueled his anger leading up to the Persian Gulf War in 1990.  Even though Saddam Hussein was continuously making threats against Kuwait, his invasion took the whole world by surprise.  Iraqi forces first seized downtown Kuwait City and then took charge south to the border of Saudi Arabia.  The United Nations was the first to respond by establishing economic sanctions and President H.W. Bush deployed troops in Saudi Arabia to provide a military force to create stability in the area. Thus, Operation Desert Shield began on August 7, 1990.  The military’s goal was to put an end to Iraqi encroachment on the territory of Saudi Arabia.  However, the war showed no sign of a peace agreement and in the early morning of January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began.  Waves of coalition aircraft set forth on the largest campaign since WWII and it appeared that Iraq was on its way to losing the war.  The American public was able to see live feeds of the war on television and witnessed Iraqi soldiers setting fire to oil fields and causing massive pollution.  America’s naval forces were a crucial part to the victory of the war by providing protection and deterring aggression by Iraq while naval aviation aided in allied air operations.
Garrick Wayne Shannon was born on February 24, 1970 in Key West, Florida. His family moved to Richmond, Virginia where he spent his childhood.  His mother was a nurse and his father worked as a warehouse manager.  While he was a young boy his parents divorced and his mother moved back to her hometown in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania.  He was an only child and lived with his father in a nice neighborhood and was fortunate enough to attend the public school system. Garrick’s life revolved around sports as he played basketball, football, and baseball throughout elementary, middle and high school.  He was able to get along with all of his classmates because of his goofy and easy-going personality.  However, when a plan to play baseball for college fell through, he felt the only opportunity available for him was to enlist into the military.  Before he knew it, it was time to begin basic training.

Garrick’s role in the Navy was a hospital corpsman, which included the tasks of taking care of patients and providing all aid possible for illnesses and injuries.  However, a hospital corpsman was not only instructed to give aid to their American soldiers, but also to the enemy.  The corpsman follows a strict protectoral protocol which is written out in the third Geneva Convention, overruling the Prisoners of War Convention of 1929.  In this law, the prisoners of war are granted proper relief efforts, financial resources, and equal rights.  According to the hospital corpsman oath and the law of the Geneva Convention, Garrick Shannon was sure to treat prisoners of war as if they were serving on the side of the Americans.  Specifically, Garrick remembers an Iraqi soldier who was frantically screaming in a foreign language.  This man was very frightened and believed the hospital corpsman were there to hurt him.  Even though it was tough for Garrick to put his patriotic feelings aside, he bandaged the soldier’s wound and sent him on his way.

When the first attacks of Desert Storm began Garrick was quickly sent from San Diego to Saudi Arabia.  In Saudi Arabia his team was temporarily living in the desert under thin tents with bunkers close by that were used for protection.  Garrick remembered the noises that surrounded him and would cringe at the sound of an accelerating bomb.  Each time, he would feel his life flash before him as he took cover in a bunker.  Food and water were scarce, but he never let those necessities keep him from performing his duty.  Eventually Garrick said that he became accustomed to the taste of the tightly air packaged food, but when he returned home he could not wait for the taste of a juicy hamburger and fries.

Along with every soldier and military personnel involved in the war, danger was constantly a concern.  Garrick and his team encountered dangerous experiences ranging from missiles, gunfire, and bombs, to poisonous snakes living in the desert.  The first time Garrick saw one of these rattlesnakes, his heart sank.  He remembers those beady eyes staring back at him and cautiously retreated.  The snakes were definitely not something Garrick ever got used to seeing.  He would have much rather stitch the bleeding wound of an American soldier than to cross the path of one of the poisonous creatures. 

Garrick tried not to let his home life and personal problems affect his performance.  He communicated through letters, phone calls, and care packages to keep in touch with his family.  His grandmother was his favorite person to hear from.  When he returned home from war, she showed him how she had saved every letter and cut out newspaper articles regarding his whereabouts.  It comforted him knowing that while he was serving his country, there were people back at home that cared for his well-being.

Before Garrick became involved in the Navy and had first-hand experiences of war, enlisting into the military was the only option he believed he had and was not something he was eager to participate in.  During that moment, he viewed the Navy as something to fall back on, not an experience that would allow him to carry on important life skills.  Garrick came back to a new family and knew it was time to change his ways.  He now had two daughters to care for and he was able to get a job out of the skills he acquired while in training as a medical assistant at an orthopedic practice.  This job led to his career as a medical salesman. Garrick owes most of his success to the discipline, respect, and responsibility he acquired as a Petty Officer Third Class in the United States Navy.

Researched by Brittany Shannon
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum



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