MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- A former Marine sergeant and Gulf War veteran will speak at the annual International Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Recognition Breakfast on Friday at the Sonoran Pueblo.
Gerald W. Andre, now a U.S. Navy Contractor for Lockheed Martin, was held hostage at an abandoned U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in August 1990 after the Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait.
During this time, Andre served as a Marine Security Guard for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
After the war in Kuwait broke out, the Iraqi forces captured the embassy personnel, including the MSG detachment, and took them to an abandoned embassy in Baghdad.
Andre was one of 50 individuals held for 130 days and used as human shields by the Iraqi soldiers.
At first there were 150 captives, but the Iraqis let the women and children leave for Amman, Jordan, said Andre. After they were released, the men were separated into three groups and kept in three separate locations to more easily keep track of them.
One group was held at the abandoned embassy, the other group at the ambassador’s residence and the last group at the abandoned Marine residence, said Andre.
Andre said his time in captivity was extremely difficult to deal with because his captors would torture them on a daily basis.
There was no physical abuse, instead, they continuously used psychological torture to break down the hostages, said Andre.
The captives were deprived of food, water and electricity, said Andre. They pointed unloaded weapons at personnel and pulled the trigger on empty chambers, and played daily mind games regarding the release of the captives.
“Some days they would load us on busses, then tell us to get off after we were loaded,” said Andre. “And sometimes after we were loaded, they would drive around the block and then, tell us to get off.”
Andre said he was able to endure it because of his training and faith in God. There is no way to really prepare for instances like this. No matter how much training people have it’s going to be difficult for anybody, said Andre.
That’s why it’s so important to remember and honor the brave men and women of the armed forces who have put their lives on the line for this country, said Andre.
“It is these men and women who serve and defend this nation daily, and the veterans who have sacrificed their lives … that preserve freedom and our U.S. Constitution for all to enjoy,” said Andre.
Andre enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on Aug. 9, 1982 and attended basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., on Dec. 31. He was later trained as a field radio operator.
After two years serving as a reservist, Andre chose to go on active duty and served with the Target Acquisition Battery, 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
After his first term, Andre reenlisted for MSG duty in November 1986 and stayed until being honorably discharged from service in the Marine Corps on Jan. 14, 1991.
During his service with the Marine Corps, Andre earned a National Defense Medal, two Good Conduct Medals, three Southwest Asia Campaign Medals and two Kuwaiti Liberation Medals.
He is married to Francia M. Andre and father to four daughters, Tara, Kelly, Shannon and Michele.
Andre is proud of his service as a Marine and said he will always keep the lessons he learned from the Corps in his heart.
“I want our brothers and sisters in arms to know that I was there and that I am still there with all of them arm and arm, heart to heart, standing and kneeling by each one of them,” said Andre.
“You are wholly appreciated by me, your brothers and sisters in uniform, your family and ours and the veterans who have gone before you. We truly appreciate you and the sacrifice that you give for us on a daily basis.”