TULSA, Okla. – Marine Maj. Craig Berryman can't shake the memory of his 37 days as an Iraqi prisoner of war.
The Cleveland, Okla., native says a day hasn't passed in the last 12 years that he hasn't thought of how Iraqi soldiers tortured, kicked and starved him in 1991.
Iraqi guards broke Berryman's left leg, beat him repeatedly and threatened him with shooting and mutilation. A lighted cigarette was twisted into an open wound on his neck, and his requests for medical attention were ignored.
He lost 25 pounds in 37 days and caught a case of dysentery that lasted two years and is likely to cause him digestive tract problems the rest of his life.
When Berryman returned, a World War II POW warned the young Marine pilot he would never forget the experience.
"He said there would not be a day go by I didn't think about it," Berryman told the Tulsa World in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. "At first I really didn't believe him. But in the 12 years since, he's been right."
Berryman was a captain when he was shot down near Kuwait City on Jan. 28, 1991. Now he's assigned to a staff job analyzing coordination of joint forces, making it unlikely he would go to the Middle East if the United States invades Iraq.
"I'd be the first to go if I could, but my job means I'm probably not going," he said.
"There have been days I'd like to go after some of them for what they did to me. Some days I'm happy to have survived and have my honor intact. There are a lot of emotions. I have some unfinished business over there."
Last April, Berryman was among 16 Gulf War POWs and their families to file a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., against the Iraqi government and President Saddam Hussein. The lawsuit asks for $25 million in actual damages for each of the POWs and $5 million for each of 21 family members, plus $300 million in punitive damages.
Iraq refused to participate in the lawsuit. A decision is expected in late spring or early summer.
The document says Iraq violated the Geneva Convention agreement on the treatment of POWs and is liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows civil judgments against certain countries known to sponsor terrorist activity. Iraq is on that list.
"I had so much hatred for those guys," said Berryman. "I was thinking so much about how much I hated them for what they were doing to me I wasn't concentrating on what we were trained to do, to plan escape and staying alive.
"I prayed I would have the physical strength and the mental ability to do that, and fortunately I did."