TAMPA - To most people, Norman Schwarzkopf will always be a symbol of the decisive American victory in the Gulf War, with his larger than life persona and overbearing physical frame.
For retired Lt. Colonel Robert Bruns, the general lived up to his reputation. Bruns said Schwarzkopf brought a style of leadership that motivated the military, from the top down.
"You felt like you were winning. You felt like you had a reason to be there. And that's so important," Bruns said. "I think that might be what we're lacking today."
Schwarzkopf was a leader that's received the most admiration since legendary four star generals like Patton and Eisenhower were in command.
Bruns flew Blackhawk Helicopter missions during the Gulf War, and attended a top level meeting with Schwarzkopf and Middle East leaders leading up to the U.S. invasion of Kuwait.
"I was able to be in a room with him with the king of Saudi Arabia one time, King Faud, before the war started," Bruns recalled.
"Even in that kind of atmosphere, he commanded the room. He was the guy. He was the big monstrous guy telling everybody, kind of controlling everybody," Bruns said.
But there was certainly more than just the man wearing the desert camouflage and the silver stars on his collars.
Because Schwarzkopf retired in the Tampa Bay area, local residents got to see him out of uniform. And for George Clemente, he was no less impressive.
"To us and many people, because he was here a lot, we saw that he was very cordial, and just an all around great guy," he said. Clemente served in the military, and his sons served under the general during the Gulf War.
"For my family he's at the very top. We just think he's one of the greatest people who was in the military," Clemente said.
Melanie LaDuc's cousins, parents, and siblings all served in the military. As a bartender at the Green Iguana, she got a thrill when the general visited the bar and signed a shirt that hung on the wall. Now she works at the American Legion serving veterans in South Tampa.
LaDuc said the greatest achievement by Schwarzkopf was getting her family members home from Kuwait alive. The U.S. victory against Iraq was so convincing, fewer than 300 Americans died in combat.
"It was a blessing," LaDuc said. "That we had taken our troops out of there, taken care of them," she said. LaDuc was asked if she thought Schwarzkopf deserved the credit.
"Yes, I do," she said, as tears welled up in her eyes. "I do."
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