I always heard the late Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf loathed the nickname "Stormin' Norman."

If so, I'm not surprised. It seems a cheesy piece of public relations to hang onto one of our nation's foremost soldiers, who died Thursday at 78.

To the troops who followed him in combat during Operation Desert Storm, Schwarzkopf was simply "The Bear" — massive in stature, powerful and fiercely protective.

I was one of those soldiers and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for this singular American.

I was a young Army lieutenant in charge of a team of artillery forward observers and a mortar section when my unit, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was ordered to pack up the tanks and move out to the Middle East.

In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, the sight of American military personnel in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has become all too common.

That certainly wasn't the case in 1990, when the Gulf War began with the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces.

At that time, the military in general (and the Army in particular) was focused on preparing to battle Soviet soldiers in Germany. That's what we all trained for - and I spent many a freezing night in winter European exercises.

Desert Storm and an earlier mission, Desert Shield, designed to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi forces, represented something new. It was largely put together on the fly.

Much of the credit should go to Schwarzkopf.

He came to our regiment to give us a pep talk shortly before the ground phase of Desert Storm kicked off.

Schwarzkopf was our commander, but he was like a rock star. We all wanted to have our picture taken with him.

From the moment I set foot in Saudi Arabia to the instant I climbed aboard the plane to return home, I had one fear - and it was not for my own safety.

I was worried about the men in my platoon. Bringing them home safe and unharmed was worth more than any combat decoration I received.

When I saw Gen. Schwarzkopf in Saudi Arabia, I fully realized the burden he was under.

I only had about a dozen men in my charge. Schwarzkopf was responsible for more than half a million.

Rest in Peace, Bear.