Saturday, November 15, 2008

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

If you compare this photo of Leif with one taken just a year or two earlier when he joined the army, I think you can clearly see the decline in his both his mental and physical health. It's a dramatic and shocking change to me. He has gained weight, lost his hair, and no longer has that vital, energetic look he had before. I don't know how much of it was caused by the asthma, how much by being separated from Nikko and knowing they had marital problems exacerbated by the long months apart, or other factors of his army service such as the humiliating treatment he had sometimes endured.

We visited Leif and Nikko just a couple of months before he went to Bosnia, in July 1999. He had gained some weight after basic training and seemed subdued at times, but wasn't the depressed and unhappy man he was by the summer of 2000. We didn't see these photos until after he died, and we didn't see Leif until he and Nikko came back to Kansas in the summer of 2000, just before Nikko left him. I wonder if the changes in him were as much of a shock to her as they were to me, when he returned to her at Fort Drum that spring.

Leif spent Christmas 1999 and his 25th birthday on January 28, 2000 in Bosnia. We never heard how he celebrated either one, or if he did.

In the photo, he is in the gun turret of the patrol vehicle, but relaxing with a soft drink. You can see a bit of the area behind him, with the damage he told of clearly visible. Note he is wearing a flack jacket. The position Leif had on patrol was totally exposed. Luckily, he was never fired upon, but if he had been, he would have been a big target.

The certificate is for the NATO medal. It reads (in both English and French):

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
This is to certify that
PFC Leif Garretson
Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry
Has been awarded the NATO Medal for Service with NATO on Operations in relation to the Former Yugoslavia During the Period 20 September 1999 to 28 March 2000.

The actual medal looks like the bronze medallions at the top of the page and the ribbon, which he would have worn on his uniform was the navy blue bar with silver stripes that is in the middle. This was yet another thing Leif didn't tell us about, and I found the medal in the box it came in among his things.

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