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Crossing the Line

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Crossing the Line

One Soldier’s Journey to Iraq and Back Again

  • by Bill Cain
    • Merriam Press Military History Series
    • First Edition 2012
    • 280 6x9-inch pages
    • 57 photos
    • 2 maps
The author's account of his participation in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Desert Calm, as a member of the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade, 1990-91.


Crossing the Line takes the reader on a journey to Iraq and back again. The subtitle is misleading. The story isn't just about one soldier, his eight-month pregnant wife, his children, an embedded journalist, or even the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade faced with a deployment to a warzone that was different than any other war, and yet a war like all other wars. As the story unfolds, the reader is allowed to experience, taste and be frustrated by the absolute boredom, tedious desert buildup and the aching for home along with the adrenalin rushes of the battle. The book is personal.

Those of us who have served or deployed (and those of us who watched and prayed for a loved one go off to war and return), Bill Cain captures that incredible place where a few days of waiting seem like an endless twilight zone. As a young intelligence officer at the time, Cain gives insight about how difficult and frustrating simple communications were in 1991. Cain places letters and notes of family, peers and enlisted throughout the book in chronological order, even though many were actually received days, weeks, or months later. It seems to be effective. Bill was tortured by not knowing whether his son was born. Historically, this book is very important for us to understand a time when most communications were done by snail mail. Today it is unfathomable for us to experience a war without Skype, Facebook, or cell phones. Yet the real fear of biological and chemical warfare wreaked havoc on the troops and all of us back home. It reminded me of my first convoy in Iraq in 2004 when I was terrified, whiney and just didn't know what was coming next. Cain does a good job in showing the differences and similarities of the two Iraq wars. If a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words, the picture of Cain just before deployment with his caption pierces our humanity: "That's me in the holding area, Rhein Mein, trying to cope with all the emotions of the moment."

Even after we veterans return, we notice that something is left undone. Something remains in the desert, in the loneliness of being with others, and longing for the love in our bed beside us. Lovers have lost days, weeks and months that will never ever be found. We attempt to write them in books, journals, poetry, or songs, but we seem to never finish the story that has no ending. Crossing the Line is about crossing into the place of being lost, and then taking a shot at finding our way home...even if home is now changed forever. The true war is within. It isn't political, although it often masquerades behind the political, capitalist, or communist machines of man's creation.

Bill and Renee's son who was born during the Desert Storm is now almost 20 years old. Their children's lives are forever affected by this five-month deployment to a war zone. Their choice of studies, the kind of family they grow, and their involvements with the military were and are probably profoundly affected. It was only mentioned that their oldest son served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yes, we are soldiers and soldiers' spouses...but our greatest love always sustains us and is victorious over any war or battle. The book left me longing for the real mark of the war in Bill's relationship to his wife, family, and self over the years. Regrettably, Cain inadvertently puts too much emphasis on Saddam Hussein as the source of the war and evil. Much self-criticism of country and self is missing in action.

The last chapters were the most intriguing for me. Bill shares his wisdom as a seasoned colonel with his own bias that sometimes bordered on apologetics. In the chapters leading up to the "crossing of the line" I was a little bogged down by the military jargon, complaints, and tedious details of the plan of war. However, the weaving of Bill and Renee's letters of love throughout the book kept the storyline anchored. Conclusions were based on his intimate experiences blended with his trustworthy and professional assessment in which disagreement was an option. On a few occasions his neutrality as an historian was skewed to the right, but for the most part he presented a very fair presentation. As one who went into Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 as a chaplain without this knowledge and understanding of the Gulf War, the book would be of great value for college and high school American History courses. The discussions would be lively.

When Bill writes about OIF: "'s easy to see how the insurgency was initially fueled by our failure to properly account for the immediate aftermath of war." and " was clear that we had problems to solve beyond the enemy situation in Iraq." These quotes revealed to me how crucial this book was to our growing awareness of the part we play in the wars of the world. Self-evaluation is always tough. Bill Cain was courageous in his attempt.

Bill Cain offers his own insight, craftily written to allow the reader to insert one's own insight without negatively or positively reacting to the author. Bill is a hero for serving...especially for writing this thought provoking journey. It warrants all liberals and conservatives to read and then to come together and discuss on a back porch treating each other with profound respect and love.

This book was an honor to read. It offered me the opportunity to also go back to Iraq again to better understand what I (and those who love me) experienced. Thank you.
—Ron Carmada

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Crossing the Line...and you will, too. As the subtitle implies, the author's objective is to provide the reader a soldier's journey to and from Iraq and he succeeds in spades while giving you a vivid, first-hand account of what it means to be a soldier, husband, father, and son. He does a marvelous job in interspersing letters from key actors, especially those between him and his wife, which add a very personal touch to a war account. Finally, in chapter 14, Our World Has Changed, he does a superb job in bringing us up-to-date and defending his conclusions.
usafret (pseudonym)

Crossing The Line was a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was an honor to serve with you and be a part of your story. Keep writing, sir!!

From the Foreword

Desert Storm was much like a television mini-series in the eyes of many onlookers. It attracted the World’s attention, drew a large viewing audience, and was over quickly after which people got on with their normal lives. The reality is that after Desert Storm, there was no return to normalcy. As Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

The 100-hour battle was a classic that could have annihilated the entire Iraqi Army if constraint was not used by United States and allied forces in the final hours. To those viewers, it was a “piece of cake” or “no contest.” However, to the soldiers who participated in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, it was a challenging and often traumatic experience that rippled throughout the entire United States Army, affecting soldiers and families alike. While Desert Storm was short-lived, Desert Shield lasted a prolonged period of time. It was obvious that Saddam Hussein was not going to withdraw from Kuwait. Early on, there was the anticipation that his Army might invade Saudi Arabia. This anticipation took its toll on the families of the deployed soldiers. The delay in the start of Desert Storm was necessary to build up combat power in the area and worked to our advantage.

Desert Storm was not just about Kuwait and Iraq, it was about the challenges of the Total Army which included the United States Army Reserve and the National Guard. Certainly all services and some allies played a key role in the fight; however, this book is about the Army’s role in that war. The entire Seventh Corps deployed into the battle area from Europe leaving behind family members who were targets of terrorist threats and who heard estimates of thousands of U. S. casualties caused by Iraqi chemical weapons.

Desert Shield/Desert Storm was instrumental in changing the way we fight wars. It changed the threat. Embedded reporters, cell phones, contractors all over the battlefield, and the anticipation of the first chemical strike set the tone. As Yogi Berra said, the future changed. It was not like it used to be in warfare. The focus was no longer on stopping the communist hordes as they attempted to pour through the Fulda Gap or standing guard along the Demilitarized Zone in Korea ready to defeat an attacking North Korean Army. It was the beginning of a War on Terrorism although few people realized it at that time, a war that our Army was not prepared to fight. Desert Storm demonstrated that our military could mass great combat power and win decisively. However, it also showed that securing the peace was an even greater challenge.

This book is also about the experience of one soldier, Bill Cain, his family, and the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade. Bill and his wife, Renée, were among those affected greatly by this historic event. His book, Crossing the Line, is based on their experiences, fears, and concerns during that time. Renée was eight months pregnant when Bill deployed to Saudi Arabia as the Brigade Intelligence Officer for the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade (attached to Seventh Corps). Soldiers of the 42nd played a key role in winning the fight in Kuwait, giving the Corps Commander the flexibility to mass fires all across the fight.

With the subsequent events of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Desert Storm has dropped from view. In this book, Bill Cain resurrects the story of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and demonstrates the significance that it played in the changing and dangerous World in which we live and how it helped create the conditions that exist in the world today. This book will bring back memories, arouse emotions, and reinforce the patriotism and valor of our soldiers and their families.

—Lieutenant General Carmen Cavezza, United States Army (Retired)

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Prologue
  • D-Minus: The Road to “The Storm”
  • Chapter 1: The Clouds Gather
  • Chapter 2: Farewell to V Corps
  • Chapter 3: Welcome to Saudi Arabia
  • Chapter 4: Phase II – The Air War (18-25 February)
  • Chapter 5: Phase III – The Deception Plan (26 January-15 February)
  • Chapter 6: Phase IV – The Breach (16-24 February)
  • Chapter 7: Phase V – The “End Around” and Exploitation (25-26 February)
  • Chapter 8: Phase VI – Destruction of the Republican Guard (27-28 February)
  • Chapter 9: Phase VII – Defense of Northern Kuwait (1-9 March)
  • Chapter 10: The Waiting Game
  • Chapter 11: Coming Home
  • Chapter 12: Reunited at Last
  • Chapter 13: Gulf War Syndrome … Saddam’s Revenge?
  • Chapter 14: The World Has Changed
  • Chapter 15: Taps
  • Military Glossary
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