Friday, November 14, 2008

Leif - Bosnia - Fall 1999 - Spring 2000 - Age 25

Leif was deployed for duty in Bosnia Herzegovina from Fall 1999 - Spring 2000. He was on sentry duty and on patrol in the machine gun turret of a vehicle, and was stationed in (I believe) three different camps during the period he was there.

Leif had a receding hairline which kept getting worse, and while he was in Bosnia, he decided to just shave his head. He never went back to having hair and said that when it started to grow, it felt "dirty" to him once he was used to the clean-shaven head.

Seeing Bosnia and what hatred for another religion or ethnic group had caused there had a profound effect on Leif. As a student of history, he already had opinions about religion causing so many problems and wars in the world, but when he saw the damage first hand, it solidified his belief that religion was too often a force of terrible evils.

Leif said there was no home or building that wasn't damaged by the war there, that many were in shambles, completely destroyed, and those that were standing and in use were marked by bullet holes and other damage. He said that Bosnia was a beautiful country, and would have been a delightful place to visit had it not been for the circumstances of the war and the peacekeeping effort.

The American troops were not supposed to have anything to do with the local populace, which he also thought was a shame, but he understood the reason for it. He recounted a story in which some of his unit managed to go to a local place for a pizza, and really enjoyed it, but said they could have gotten into a lot of trouble.

He also told a story about a time when he was on patrol when they nearly shot at other Americans who were in a restricted area and hadn't let the patrols know they were there.

Leif made some videos of the camps there, explaining where things were, a kind of tour, but so far, I don't have anything to play them with, because of the format.

Leif had been very unhappy at Fort Drum, partly because he felt that soldiers in his unit were not being treated well (and sometimes very cruelly and humiliatingly) by a particular sergeant, partly because he felt they were wasting a lot of time, were kept past retreat (time to go home) without reason (just waiting in the day room for dismissal), and because he had developed cold weather asthma the previous winter at Fort Drum after having been to Uzbekistan and "eating and breathing sand for two weeks." However, he found his time in Bosnia to be far more interesting and rewarding because, as he put it, "we finally had a mission."

Leif contended that it is hard to be an infantry soldier in peacetime because there is no real mission. Yes, they have to train and be prepared to fight, but that training doesn't go on eight hours a day, five or more days a week, so there are "make work" projects and a lot of wasted time. Leif hated boredom and hated having his time wasted.

But in Bosnia, he could see a clear reason for their mission. Leif said that he felt that if the US and NATO troops left, the war would resume and people would start killing each other again. Despite the fact that he knew the USA could not police the world, he did feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at his service in Bosnia, and a sense of comradeship in arms that was much more pronounced that he had felt in the USA.

The photo of Leif above was taken while he was on patrol in Bosnia but I don't know the date. I found it in an album he had. He had never shown those photos to us.

The three certificates are from his time in Bosnia.

Certificate of Appreciation
This Certificate is Presented to
SPC Leif A. Garretson
C Col, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment
For dedication to duty, and service to the
2nd Brigade Task Force, while assigned
as part of SFOR-6 in Bosnia Herzegovina.

Comanche Base
Operation Joint Forge
Certificate of Achievement
Presented to SPC Leif A. Garretson
3rd Platton, C Co., 2/87 Infantry Regiment
For exemplary performance of duty while assigned as a Sentry at Comanche Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina during Operation Joint Forge from 26 December 1999 to 26 January 2000. Your dedication and willingness to put forth the extra effort in all that you do is indicative of your professionalism and desire to be the best. This achievement is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service. Fly to Glory!

The third certificate is in the language used in Bosnia. It came with a small badge or lapel pin that looks like the one on the certificate, oval, red, with crossed rifles. It reads, as nearly as I can translate it:

SPC Garretson
has earned
The Military Sharpshooter Medallion
In Bronse
Bosnia, 3 December 1999

I wish I knew how that kind of competition took place. Leif's normal weapon was the machine gun, but this was evidently for a rifle competition or qualification.

I found these certificates and the Bosnian sharpshooter medallion in Leif's things.

Leif was promoted from Private First Class to Specialist sometime between when we saw him in July 1999 and December 1999 when he got the sharpshooter award, but I don't recall that he told us about it.

We had limited contact with Leif while he was in Bosnia, just a few emails. I'm going to try to see whether they are still on my computer and whether there are any interesting details in them. It would be unusual, since Leif didn't often write much.

No comments:

Post a Comment