The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

Lawman in Bosnia wears Fauquier badge, U.N. beret

Saturday, March 29, 1997, 0:00
Section: Bosnia,Journalism

The Potomac NewsThis story originally appeared in The Potomac News.

MALHALA, BOSNIA — In a lawless and dangerous land, where most people solve their problems with a gun, he’s one of a small band of lawmen dedicated to bringing justice and order. He wears a pale gold star on his chest.

The land is Bosnia.

The badge Bob Mosier wears is a Fauquier County Sheriff’s Department badge.

He left the sheriff’s department behind to become a member of the United Nations’ International Police Task Force.

On a chilly, gray Friday afternoon, four infantrymen of 2nd Platoon, Company C, 1-26 Infantry walked into a mess. Two dozen angry residents in the Muslim village of Malhala — smack-dab in the middle of the demilitarized Zone Of Separation between the Croat and Muslim federation and the Serbian portion of Bosnia — waved their hands, sobbed and shouted angrily.

The Bosnian Serb police who patrol the area were holding a villager. He hadn’t been seen since he was picked up, and villagers suspected the worst, and not without reason.

Several months ago, the police held an elderly villager’s arms and legs down and beat his genital area with a baseball bat. He went into a coma and later died.

Through the unit’s translator, the villagers explained their fears. Officially, the village has 316 residents. But the U.S. soldiers of checkpoint Sierra-10, who patrol several of the neighboring villages, have counted only 47 residents. The rest are dead or too afraid to come back home.

The villagers angrily denounced the Serbian police. Although officially inside the Serbian sphere of influence under the General Framework Agreement for Peace (the working blueprint springing from the Dayton Peace Accords) the Serbian police didn’t begin patrolling until late last year. Now, the soldiers tried talking the villagers down from their hysteria, just as they had last August, when the first police patrols began.

“We just talked to Bob,” Staff Sgt. Gary Farrington said to the villagers, gesturing to his radio man, Spc. Russell Hargrave who had just broken contact with Mosier. “He’s coming. You know Bob; he’s a good guy.”

The white U.N. Nissan pickup rolled up through the ruined village. It stopped near the knot of villagers and soldiers, and Bob Mosier stepped out.

Mosier, a former captain in the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Department, has been a member of the International Police Task Force since October. The Woodbridge High School graduate works with the various Bosnian police forces, acting as a liaison between them, helping with training and monitoring for human rights abuses.

He held his hands up, smiling and shaking hands with all parties present. He had been speaking to the Serbian police, alerted by radio of the situation. Malhala has been a persistent trouble spot and is closely monitored by the U.N.

The man was on his way back, he explained. This led to another round of hand-waving by the villagers. If the Serbian police station was only 20 minutes away, the villager had better be here in 20 minutes, they explained.

Farrington sauntered over to Mosier.

“You know they’re going to be timing this to the second,” the infantryman muttered.

Mosier led the translator off to the side, beckoning the village leaders over, one by one, explaining to them quietly the importance of keeping the situation under control.

Fortunately, a few minutes later the villager did arrive, brought by a Serbian police officer and an Austrian U.N. observer. The prisoner, much to the villagers’ dismay, had dried blood trailing from his ear.

The yelling and shouting began anew. Mosier and the soldiers spent the next half hour talking to the villagers, using words to head off violence.

“If this can happen to him, it can happen to me,” one elderly woman exclaimed. “They are going to kill us all!”

Farrington sighed, pulling a cigarette from his pack.

“Welcome to Bosnia.”

The situation was a bit more complicated than it initially appeared, Mosier explained later. The villager, Mahmet, had a history of run-ins with the Serbian police and had threatened to kill them several weeks ago. When pulled over and asked for his identification earlier in the day, he became belligerent and began to verbally abuse the police once more. They brought him in to determine what sort of threat, if any, he posed. And it wasn’t clear who worked him over or what organization they represented. All that would have to be determined for the human rights report on the incident.

What could have happened in Malhala is not clear. The villagers were forced to give up their weapons under the conditions of the peace plan, although they probably have a small cache of weapons hidden somewhere. But the town’s graveyard is full of defaced tombstones and several of the houses under repair have been destroyed. And, of course, everyone remembers what happened to the old man.

In the midst of armed Bosnian police, American soldiers and likely armed villagers, the only definitively unarmed participant is Mosier.

“Unarmed,” Mosier said earlier. “An unarmed mission, mind you. Unbelievable!”

The International Police Task Force’s neutrality doesn’t make it beloved: Mosier’s station in Zvornik in the Republic of Srpska, the Bosnian Serb portion of Bosnia-Hercegovina, was held hostage for several days in August.

“It’s been quite an adjustment, not being armed. I’ve been armed for, what, 15 years? So it’s been adjustment,” Mosier, one of the 161 Americans in the 1,750-man IPTF, said later, racing down the darkened road toward the electric lights of Zvornik. “I tell you, I’ve used every bit of my police skills.”

Mosier has sacrificed more than just his gun. He had to quit his job as a department captain, receiving a “special deputy” status instead. And he left his wife and three young children behind for a year.

“I had gone through some executive development and it was suggested that I put out some resumes, just to see what I was worth,” he said. “Anyway, I sent out a resume [to the United Nations], just to see what I was worth. … Then a letter came back that I was accepted.”

Mosier quit at the height of his career for a one-year stint overseas. It was his first time away from American soil other than a Bahamas vacation. And he was going to a war-torn country where he didn’t speak the language and would go unarmed.

“I prayed about it,” he said. “When this was offered, I had a peace about it. And what a rewarding experience.”

He gives a lot of credit to his wife, Cindy, herself a Fauquier County deputy.

“I kind of couldn’t believe him. I said ‘you’re not really going are you?’ I said that right up to when he got on the plane. I did not want him to go, to be honest with you,” Cindy said by phone from Fauquier County. “But as his wife, I felt I had to be supportive of him.”

At their Bealeton home, the Mosiers keep a running countdown of the days Bob has left in Bosnia on the kitchen calendar and there are two big yellow ribbons outside.

Cindy Mosier visited her husband at Christmas and will do so again in April, on their 10th anniversary. The December trip, her first outside the U.S., opened her eyes.

“I was so happy that I’m an American. I guess that’s the best way I can describe it. I guess I just took it for granted the way we have it here,” she said. “My heart was just broken.”

Being a law officer herself, she knows and understands the risks involved, and worries about her husband’s safety.

“He kind of doesn’t tell me too much, because he doesn’t want me to worry.”

Mosier’s base of operations in downtown Zvornik seems almost normal, compared to the devastated towns near the demilitarized zone. Smiling young dark-haired couples stroll down the street, arm in arm. The electricity is on and the hotel bars are filled. The gas heat was just restored after being out all winter and the economy is still shaky at best. And the glass wall of the stairwell that leads up to the IPTF office in Zvornik, above the Hotel Drina bar, is laced with bullet holes.

“The phone lines don’t always work,” Mosier said, “You can’t call from the republic to the federation. I finally figured out a way for my wife to call Belgrade and get the call transferred to me.”

He carries pictures of his wife and children in his wallet, pulling them out unbidden.

“I look at them often.”

But the job at hand is an important one, especially when he considers the differences between Bosnia and America.

“I used to think we pay a high price for freedom. I don’t think that anymore,” he said. It’s hard to feel Americans have their rights infringed when there’s one police officer in the United States for every 2,000 citizens, when in Bosnia, the ratio is one police officer for every 75 citizens. “This is a police state. I don’t ever want that to happen.”

And the police have a very different outlook on their jobs than American officers, something Mosier is trying to help soften.

“I guess the most important thing that’s happened over here is the interpersonal relationships and introducing Western democratic styles of police,” he said. Too many police still have a Cold War-era “beat first, ask questions later” mentality. “Once you break the ice of ‘yeah, I’m a monitor, I’m here to watch you,’ they start asking you for advice.”

The republic and federation police forces’ human rights violations seize all the headlines, but Mosier says that’s not the whole story.

“It’s the same thing as in the United States, if one person in uniform does something wrong, all they see is the uniform. … They’re all bad guys. But I’ll tell you, that’s not the case. I’ve worked with some great policemen in the federation and the republic. There’s bad guys on both sides that have to be vetted. And that’s where the IPTF comes in.”

His assignment ends in October, but Mosier believes his tenure in Bosnia has been time well spent.

“I’ve had several dreams in my life — be a policeman, get married, have a family, build a log cabin — and I can honestly say I’ve accomplished them all. What do I do now?” Mosier said, in the small U.N. office. “I had people coming to me and saying ‘you’re crazy, quitting your job, you won’t have anything when you get back,’ but doors open in your life and you have to go through them.”

Reminders of war amid routine of the classroom

Thursday, March 27, 1997, 0:00
Section: Bosnia,Journalism

The Potomac NewsThis story originally appeared in The Potomac News.

SIMIN HAN, BOSNIA — The convoy of Humvees rolled into the schoolyard in a cloud of dust.

A horde of children, between the ages of 4 and 10, swarmed the vehicles, offering clumsy high-fives to the GIs, calling out for “lunch box” — prepackaged Army rations known as Meals Ready to Eat.

The soldiers tumbled out of their cars, grinning at one another and the children. Those giving out candy were almost at risk for their lives, with children tugging at their sleeves, shouting out mysterious requests in Serbo-Croatian and waving their hands frantically at their benefactors.

On the surface, the students at the school in the village of Simin Han, just east of Tuzla, seemed like any other children. They pushed and laughed and sang silly songs to the visitors.

They wear “Aladdin” T-shirts and “Lion King” jeans. Teachers had to herd the students, who were easily distracted by the soldiers in their Kevlar vests and helmets, from class to class.

A dozen little girls played jump rope with found string tied into longer strands as older boys lounged on the fences, watching the soldiers’ arrival with an elaborate show of nonchalance.

But across the driveway from the school was an equally large building, a shelter for families whose husbands and fathers were dead or missing. Other students in the school have moved with their families into other Muslims’ houses, where most of them now live one family to a room.

The Psychological Operations unit from Eagle Base in Tuzla was here for a number of reasons: to discuss the school’s facilities and safety, to buy shelter-made crafts for resale at the Eagle Base Post Exchange and to distribute food and books as aid.

Taking advantage of the situation was Sgt. Roy Caldwell, of the history unit, who brought a video camera along to record answers to questions posed by a fourth-grade class in Helena, Mont., where his son goes to school.

Although the Bosnian school system numbers the academic levels differently, he found a class of comparably aged students and an amenable teacher.

“Hi,” Caldwell said, standing at the front of the room. The classroom smelled of chalk dust and was filled with the sounds of students and soldiers in the driveway, outside its windows. Students sat side-by-side at two-person desks. “First, I want to say thanks for letting us to come to your class. What I want is to ask some questions asked by a fourth-grade class in America.”

As translated by Vildonna Halilovic, one of the Army’s Bosnian civilian employees, the idea was met with enthusiasm. The children leapt out of their chairs, arms raised to tell that they play soccer, volleyball and basketball when asked what games they enjoy.

Caldwell put his hand to his head, thinking about which question to ask next.

“Oh, this is a kid question: How many kids have TV?”

About three-quarters of the class raised their hands.

“How many have phones?”

Only two of the 30 students raised their hands. Phone lines were one of the early targets during the civil war, and even today communication throughout the Tennessee-sized nation can be hit or miss.

Caldwell consulted his crib sheet and grinned.

“What happens when you misbehave in class?”

Halilovic listened a moment to the replies, then gestured at the teacher standing next to her.

“She is yelling at them a little bit,” Halilovic explained. For more severe infractions, students get demerits in the teacher’s book.

For the most part, the Bosnian children’s questions were similar to the Americans’: Do American kids play soccer? Do they have to learn math? Do American children have their own rooms?

But as familiar as the classroom scene was, there were telling differences: The students’ history books include graphic depictions of the Bosnian civil war, including photos of concentration camp prisoners and dead bodies.

One of the students, a blond girl of 11, sat at a desk by herself on the left side of the classroom, blowing bubbles with her gum and listening to the proceedings. One of the better students in the class, she eagerly answered questions, her hand waving frantically for attention. But she’s also one of the students most touched by the carnage that swept through the former Yugoslavia five years ago.

Smaida is one of three students in the class who also live in the shelter. She, her mother and her two sisters, ages 3 and 14, have lived there for a year. Two years ago they fled the worst civilian massacre since World War II. Nearly 8,000 people are missing in the wake of the ethnic cleansing that swept the Muslim community of Srebrenica.

When she mentioned the flight from Srebrenica after class, Smaida’s face went pale, her light green eyes began to water.

“She says it was really bad when she saw all those people wounded,” Halilovic translated.

Life in the shelter is “nice,” she said, but “it was better there” in Srebrenica, before the killings began.

The past overshadows her hopes for the future. She doesn’t have ambitions like becoming a doctor, a teacher, a journalist. All she wants for the future, Halilovic translates is “she would like for her father to come home. And she hopes he will come back.”

Her father, Smajo, whom she was named after, has been missing for three years and is presumed dead.

E-mail, phone calls bring soldiers word from home

Thursday, March 27, 1997, 0:00
Section: Bosnia,Journalism

The Potomac NewsThis story originally appeared in The Potomac News.

Maj. Jay Greeley is a busy man.

He works seven days a week in Bosnia, often working both day and night shifts as the Reserve Component liaison, smoothing out the transition of Army Reservists and Army National Guard soldiers to full-time work in Bosnia.

“It’s ‘Groundhog Day’ every day!” he laughed. A popular reference at Eagle Base in Tuzla, the Bill Murray movie featured a weatherman who awoke every morning at dawn to relive a frantic Groundhog Day broadcast from Punxsutawney, Pa.

But Greeley also has lots of irons in the fire back home in Leesburg. He volunteers for the Red Cross, coaches Little League baseball and several youth hockey teams.

They will all have to get along without him until his return to America in October. But in the meantime, he keeps up with the Greeley household sports news with daily e-mail dispatches.

He’s been disheartened to hear from his three sons that his teams are spending time in the penalty box in hockey. When he was coaching, time in the penalty box often meant spending the rest of the game on the bench.

Having the e-mail link makes being 4,720 miles away from home a lot easier, he says.

“I think what’s wearing is if you had to sit and wait on your mail,” Greeley said. “We have almost instant communication with our families.”

“It’s difficult sometimes to get to the e-mail,” said Sgt. Mark Gonzales of Manassas, who is stationed at Dobol base east of Tuzla, near the demilitarized zone. The base is more primitive than Eagle Base, where nearly every soldier has easy access to a laptop computer. “But it’s nice to know that when you send it, it gets there in minutes.”

A generation ago, such rapid communication was unthinkable. Soldiers in Vietnam communicated with their sweethearts back home the way soldiers always have: by applying pen to paper. The letters were bundled up and carried out on military flights back to the United States, where they would arrive a week or so later.

But for the U.S. soldiers in Bosnia, that’s yesterday’s news. Literally.

“It’s terrible nowadays in the ’90s,” said Lt. Timothy Mangum, a former Woodbridge High School student now stationed in Germany. “I write a letter, then I go to call [my wife] and, well, all that news is old. If I was paying for [the phone calls], I’d be much more of a writer.”

Mangum, a platoon leader for an artillery division at Camp Demi, south of Tuzla, can make free calls his wife who works on a U.S. base in Germany.

Soldiers who aren’t lucky enough to have spouses working for the Army in Europe get free 15-minute “morale calls” home once a week.

And for those who still can’t get enough of phoning home, AT&T has a Bosnian number. Soldiers can use calling cards at any of dozens of phones set up throughout the American bases.

Greeley pulled out six e-mail print-outs folded in his back pocket.

“‘Hey, Dad, this is a test of your new e-mail,'” he said, reading off the top sheet. Greeley looked at it a moment, smiling. He shuffled it to the bottom of the stack of print-outs.

“This one’s from my wife. She tells me when spring break is, so maybe I can get some leave.” It might be important that he go: “Eric said ‘Mom’s been really bad. Send more gifts.'”

Reservists find smooth transition, plenty of work

Wednesday, March 26, 1997, 0:00
Section: Bosnia,Journalism

The Potomac NewsThis story originally appeared in The Potomac News.

The chaos in the former Yugoslavia has disrupted more than just the lives of the natives of the strife-torn region.

There are hundreds of U.S. Army Reservists and members of the Army National Guard at staging bases in Hungary, and even more at bases worldwide — including more than 2,000 in Germany — taking the place of full-time soldiers deployed to Bosnia. Another 938 reservists are among the 8,500 American troops stationed in Bosnia.

Since the U.S. military joined the multi-national peacekeeping forces in Bosnia in December 1995, 11,700 reservists and Guardsmen have left their civilian jobs to take up arms and do their part.

(In comparison, the 84,990 Army Reservists made up one third of the force deployed in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and 1,223 reservists were deployed in Haiti, less than one-twelfth the entire fighting force.)

If there’s a difference between the reservists and full-time soldiers in Bosnia, it would be difficult to tell by looking. In the U.S. military bases around Bosnia, the reservists are a smoothly turning cog in the Army machine.

And that’s just how the U.S. Army likes it.

“If you’re in the Army Reserves, the question isn’t if you’re going to go, it’s when you’re going to go,” said Maj. Jerry Sullivan, in the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve at the Pentagon.

Part of the reason so many reservists have been called to active duty is because of the different skills needed by an army in the field.

“Increasingly, the Army Reserve has become either the primary source or the sole source of different specialties the Army needs when they deploy,” Sullivan said.

In Bosnia, that includes specialists in water purification, railways, who are needed to help rebuild Bosnia’s shattered infrastructure and other specialists, in psychological operations, civil affairs and public affairs, who deal with politics, refugees and the media.

“We are the Army’s capability,” Sullivan said, “And when the Army goes somewhere, chances are, we’re going, too.”

Ironically, these soldiers are seeing more action in the field now that the Cold War has ended than their fathers could ever have seen.

“When there was a Cold War, the times we actually deployed for ‘real world missions’ was almost none,” Sullivan said. The last few years have included peace-keeping missions to Haiti and Somalia, where non-combatant skills proved invaluable.

“We’ve deployed more over the past seven years than we did during the entire Cold War,” Sullivan said.

By law, employers are required to hold the jobs for employees temporarily on leave as part of a military deployment and “by and large,” Sullivan said,”employers have been supportive.”

Of course, the reservist — who typically has weeks, if not months, of advance warning — has to meet the employer half-way.

“When it’s gone to court,” Sullivan said, “They haven’t looked too favorably on soldiers who, 15 minutes before quitting time, said ‘hey, I’m gonna be taking off for the next few weeks.'”

It’s more than a few weeks: Reservists are typically away from home for an initial hitch of 180 days, with the possiblility of another 90-day extension. These times aren’t precise, though: Dates shift as different units overlap with the ones they replace, to allow for training, and transportation is always dependent on what is available.

For local reservists, the transition from daily life in Northern Virginia to living on-base in Bosnia has been a relatively smooth one.

“From our perspective, there were one or two hitches at the very beginning, but those seem to have worked themselves out,” Sullivan said. “And now the operation is fairly smooth-running.”

Part of the reason may be Maj. Jay Greeley, of Leesburg. Based at Task Force Eagle Base in Tuzla, he’s the Reserve Component liaison who helps smooth over the rougher transitions.

“If you wanted to label it, I run a help desk. I get 20 phone calls a day, 20 walk-ins a day,” Greeley said.

Although most soldiers’ transitions are smooth, there are always one or two reservists whose families aren’t receiving pay checks, or employees worried about whether or not their jobs will actually be secure when they get back home.

It keeps Greeley hopping, seven days a week, often two eight-hour shifts a day.

“The biggest thing to worry about is you don’t get burned-out. You could work all day, all night, doing things that haven’t been done,” he said.

Reservists — who train at least 39 days a year — say they were well-prepared for soldiering in Bosnia. They spend two weeks stateside, going through a battery of physicals, skills tests, practice sessions and information on the Bosnian rules of engagement before being shipped to the Intermediate Staging Base in Taszar, Hungary, where they go through another round of preparation before being sent to Bosnia.

And just because the reservists have civilian jobs and lives, they don’t necessarily have less military experience.

“We’ve got a good cross-section of people with active-duty experience, combat experience,” said Capt. John Mills of Dumfries. He himself was in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and he’s been in Bosnia since January.

A contract specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration in his civilian life, Mills’ Psychological Operations reserve unit produces news about the peace process and rebuilding for the Bosnian population, which otherwise makes do with heavily slanted partisan media or no information at all.

The FAA was very supportive of his deployment, Mills said, and he keeps in touch with his office with almost-daily e-mail communication.

Greeley himself is a reservist, a functions analyst for Boeing in Tysons Corner. The company is sensitive to the needs of reservists, he said. Although it has to give him only 10 days leave by law, he’ll have his old job waiting for him when he returns in the fall.

He’s got a full life back in Virginia, with a wife and three sons, whom he1s eager to be reunited with upon his October return stateside.

“Oh yeah, I’ll be ready. But by the same token, this is important,” Greeley said. “And this is kind of like my last hurrah. I expect to retire when I get back.”

Beyond shifting gears from their civilian to military jobs, reservists have to make other adjustments.

“It’s so funny: You live back in the States, you have to have this nice car and house,” Mills said, sitting near his cot and footlocker. Photos of family and friends in nearby frames and a copy of “The Indigo Bunting,” a collection of Potomac News columns by Mills’ pastor, the Rev. Charlie Chilton, are the only things that personalize his living area and link him to life back in Dumfries. “But this here is my domain and I’m satisfied.”

Soldiers unprepared for Bosnia’s devastation, suffering

Wednesday, March 26, 1997, 0:00
Section: Bosnia,Journalism

The Potomac NewsThis story originally appeared in The Potomac News.

No one believes soldiers can be totally prepared for every situation they will encounter in a war zone, but the U.S. Army has tried to cover all its bases.

Before being deployed to Bosnia, American soldiers go through simulations of life in Bosnia, receive detailed instruction on what to expect and receive a sheaf of books and pamphlets containing additional information.

One of the pamphlets, “A Soldier’s Guide: Bosnia-Herzegovina,” includes such information as the size and population of Bosnia (it’s slightly larger than Tennessee, with a slightly smaller population than the state of Georgia), a brief history of the conflict, information on the different military and political factions, useful phrases (“Oruzje dolje!” means “Put your weapon down!”) and even hints on meeting the media (“There is nothing wrong with saying ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t tell you.’ However, never lie to a reporter.”).

But all the preparation in the world can’t prepare a soldier for the emotional reality of war.

“I expected to see a war-torn country,” Lt. John Grantz of Fredericksburg said. “But for a young guy who came from a middle-income American family, it’s hard to believe it until you see it.”

“The training was pretty realistic,” said Lt. Timothy Mangum, a former Woodbridge High School student, “But I still can’t believe how these houses and lives have been turned upside down by this war.”

What shocks many of the soldiers is how beautiful the country — the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics — clearly once was.

“If you look out here, it looks like a hillside in Italy,” said Maj. Ed Burley of Kingstown, near Fort Belvoir. “The problem is, it looks like a hillside in Italy in 1945.”

Soldiers who have been in Bosnia less than six months are seeing the damage after the Bosnians have had more than a year to rebuild.

“When you look at the situation, what would it be like if we weren’t here, what would it be like?” said 1st Sgt. Edward Gaines of Aldie in Loudoun County. “Total chaos, total devastation.”

Nearly every soldier interviewed mentioned those hardest hit by the war: the children of Bosnia.

“Every time we go out, the little kids wave at the convoy,” said Cpl. Keith Wiedeman of Centreville. “And that reminds me of why we’re here: We’re here for the kids so then they can grow up safely.”

“You meet little kids or teens talking about going to college in Belgrade,” Grantz said. “It’s nice to think that the reason they’re not dead in a ditch somewhere is because we’re here. I wouldn’t mind if we stayed here for a while.”

Although the American soldiers have never been purposely attacked by any factions, they are still in danger. Soldiers are told “if you didn’t drop it, you don’t pick it up” and to never step off the road for fear of mines. UNICEF estimates 1.8 million landmines have been planted in Bosnia.

Despite that, the troops are relaxed, if alert.

“I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than D.C., personally,” said Lt. Col. Mike Webb of Lake Ridge, a career military officer.

“It’s a different kind of danger,” Burley said. “D.C. is a random sort of danger.” Bosnia’s violence, he said, is more “systematic.”

Despite the grim nature of their mission, many of the soldiers are excited to be in Bosnia and by the work before them.

“The mission is a lot better than I thought it would be to tell the truth,” Sgt. Mark Gonzales of Manassas said. “I wasn’t aware of the good work the soldiers are doing here.”

“It’s kind of nice — to be honest with you — to come from being in D.C. a year and be wearing this uniform,” Webb said of his camouflage fatigues. “Soon enough, I’ll be back … driving the Beltway.” He laughed.

Bosnia’s future is less bright. Most people in Bosnia believe fighting will begin again, soon after the U.S. troops pull out in 1998. The question is how long the fighting will last next time.

“Our job is to make the peace, to go out and convince them the benefits [of peace] far outweigh the violence,” Burley said. “And you have some very angry people and it’s hard for them to forget.”

He has seen hopeful signs in the trucks that roll past his base camp, trading Serbian gravel for Muslim-Croat coal.

“That’s a first sign that maybe it’s possible for the whole country to heal,” he said.

For Gonzales, the promise of peace is symbolized by the mosques being rebuilt, day-by-day.

“When you meet the people here and see how they’re pushing forward despite how they’ve gone through so much, it’s very uplifting,” he said.

But the Bosnians still have a long way to go before their lives can approach what Americans would recognize as normal.

“A lot of people say we should just take care of ourselves, but there’s a lot of people here who need our help,” Grantz said. “Our tax dollars are going to a good cause and I wish everybody could come and see it. And I’m a cynical guy.”


Copyright © Beau Yarbrough, all rights reserved
Veritas odit moras.