In honor of Memorial Day this month, Make It Better is interviewing local veterans every week during May. This week, we feature John Nash.
Nash served with the U.S. Army from 1988 through the end of 1991, and was overseas during Gulf War I, or Operation Desert Storm, from October of 1990 to March of 1991. As Nash says, “As far as wars go, it was the shortest and had the least amount of casualties in our history.”
Nash, 48, is as a real estate agent. He lives in his native Wilmette with his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters.
How did you end up in participating in Operation Desert Storm?
I joined ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) when I was a freshman at University of Notre Dame, and I applied for and got an ROTC scholarship. So when you receive the scholarship, you’re required to serve 4 years in the Army.
When I graduated, I put in for an educational delay and I got it. So I spent the next 3 years at University of Texas for law school. After law school, I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and I was in for about 3 years before the war started.
I really didn’t think about joining the military until I was getting ready for college. The scholarship was the prime reason; to be honest, it never occurred to me that there might be a war. When you’re 18, you don’t really think about it.
Where were you stationed during the war?
I was essentially on the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, on the Saudi side. It was all desert, you couldn’t see anything but sand. Each location looked the same—the whole country really is a desert. We would move a couple hours here, a couple hours there, but it was always just sand. And you would see camels wandering around.
During the war, what were your responsibilities?
Everyone who goes into the Army gets training in combat—combat tactics, using rifles, using armored vehicles—but that wasn’t my job. I was a defense attorney. My job was to counsel soldiers who had gotten into trouble, who were being charged with crimes.
Whether it was in the United States or in Saudi Arabia, they would come and see me. We did have a few court-martials while we were in the Saudi desert. We did them in a tent, right where the soldiers were stationed, getting ready for the war.
What are some of the things you learned in the service that you apply to your life today?
For me personally, it helped with public speaking. And even though I don’t work as an attorney anymore, I learned how to do trials in the military. I had 80-some trials, which is something you don’t get as a civilian.
As a kid from Wilmette, it was really great to meet kids from all walks of life, all economic backgrounds, from all regions of the country. I don’t think there’s been anything I’ve done since where I’ve gotten to meet such a wide range of people and backgrounds. I really got to learn how to relate to people better.