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June 29, 2005

The *Other* Quagmire

Remember Bosnia? We had no exit timetable there, either -- just a set of conditions that had to be met before we decided that we were no longer needed in the Peacekeeping role.

Those conditions were fulfilled and the last SFOR (Stabilization Force) units are back. You might like to tuck the following letter into your long-term memory and dredge it back up every now and again while you await the return of the last of the Sandbox rotations...

Dear Friend,

I still remember the day that you crossed the Sava River almost nine years ago.
I didn't know what to expect from you, but I had to respect that you're here so I don't have to listen to artillery rounds, climb mountains, be a target or target others.
We met on a cold January day and were pretty distant from each other. I guess you didn't know what to expect from me either.
And our journey has taken off from that day.
We walked the tiny roads of the Srebrenica area, pulled security for the first returnees at the village of Nezuk and Dugi Dio; rode Hummers and Bradleys on the Han Pijesak Highlands; lived for months under the Bosanski Brod Bridge patrolling back and forth to Croatia; we've done thousands of radio shows, meetings and Round Tables, [Weapon] Harvests, Weapon Storage Inspections, demining operations, trainings and what not. The pictures of Ulice are still fresh in my mind as [we] walked in silence overwhelmed by the amount of devastation trying to figure out what it is that drives a human being to that kind of destructive insanity. I still remember when the crowd threw the rocks and boards at us and hit you in the head at Brcko Bridge; negotiations with groups of people on numerous check points at the IEBL; even how you started the worldwide renowned Arizona Market to bring people closer to each other.
Now, after tens of millions of miles, thousands of sleepless nights in the woods and hilltops of this country, I don't know if we became best buddies but I know that we made a pretty good team that accomplished a very good job.
You've taught me a lot. But several things are paramount. The professionalism and impartiality that you've shown me will lead me through this world, which is still, after millions of years of evolution, somewhat infected with prejudice. You have shown me how to feel love for my homeland. I remember how I stood ashamed before your tremendous and unconditional love for your country. It taught me to appreciate my flag and the anthem a lot more and that by doing a number of small things for my country, it will grow to something I'm proud of.
The most important thing you taught me was to believe in myself and that I'm able to achieve anything if I put my mind to it, as you helped me accomplish tasks that were challenging even for a more experienced person than a 20-year-old.
You've given me a beautiful decade, a head start for the future, hope for all of us underdogs and underprivileged who are not "connected," "family related" with "the right people at the right places," nor have "the right name" in a country that still cherishes these substandard values.
I admire you for the the fact that I'm not sure that I would do the same thing for someone I didn't know.
Conspiracy creators say you never do anything without your own interest. I can't agree, and this is why. The ones who have had a near-death experience claim their whole life flashes before your eyes just prior to the judgement moment. The reminiscent roll of film unwinds, the most emotional frames of your existence; first trophy, first kiss, first love, wedding, birth of your children, family reunion on a Christmas or 4th of July, championship game of your favorite team, divorce, death of a loved one...
Before you say the final goodbye to this world and go to the place where the peacekeeping job is already taken; your film could be missing some of the most important things of your life; simply because you couldn't be there to witness it. Because somebody else needed your help even more. Instead, your film could contain tears of an old Bosnian lady in Srebrenica, excitement and gratitude in the eyes of a smiling child from Tuzla Orphanage who just received school supplies and toys from this Soldier that speaks this funny language, a mind-blowing view from Zvornik and Srebrenik Castle or the horrifying sights of Snagovo mass grave.
So, if you even took anything from Bosnia, anything at all; my country and I have taken a lot more from you.
All I know is you will make a significant part of my film when it unwinds.
For all this
So Long and Thank You, "G.I. Joe"

Aleksandar Ilic

Aleksandar worked for Task Force Eagle in Tuzla. His farewell letter was published in the final edition of TALON on Friday, November 12, 2004.

Don't forget to visit a soldier currently deployed in "The Other Quagmire".

Crosslinked at Outside the Beltway.

CW4BillT | Permalink | Comments (11) | Politics
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Comments on The *Other* Quagmire
Barb briefed on June 29, 2005 12:34 AM

Very timely, Bill. The long road ahead won't be easy, but it would be much, much harder to give up on the Iraqi people. And not just on them...

cw4(ret)billt briefed on June 29, 2005 12:44 AM

Thought you'd like it, Barb.

I'd send it to Teddy the K, if I thought he had a single synapse that wasn't hard-wired in continuous loop...

Mustang 23 briefed on June 29, 2005 07:08 AM

As a SFOR Vet that is a real neat letter to read. I am so proud of what we have accomplished in Bosnia.

It truly is a beautiful country and he is not kidding about the view from the Srebrenik Castle. I spent 7 months further up the same hill as that castle. Breath taking a is an understatement.

Above all I was very proud to find out that Bosnia has troops over here in Iraq. if any country know the value of what we are trying to accomplish here, it would be Bosnia.

Boquisucio briefed on June 29, 2005 07:16 AM

Thanx for the good read, Mr. T.

AFSister briefed on June 29, 2005 01:27 PM

That's beautiful, Bill. I'm so glad you shared it with us- a very fitting reminder of what America can mean to Iraq and Afghanistan, if only they will open their hearts and minds to us like this 'terp did.

Army Girl briefed on June 29, 2005 05:35 PM

Can I please please please have a copy of this letter for my blog? I don't want to just link it, I want to make sure people visiting my site READ it.

I promise I will give credit where it's due..

Thank You a million times in advance!! ;)

klkk briefed on June 29, 2005 06:18 PM

I worked with Alek during SFOR 13. He was the media specialist in the public affairs office. Sorry, AFSis, but they didn't like being called 'terps. He had some awesome stories about when he fought against the Serbs during the war. Very smart, very dedicated guy.
If you want to peruse some of the back issues of the Talon, go to
That's the archives. We did the Mar 21 through Sep 26 issues. It was a great tour...not as good as the 'Stan, but was good...

klkk briefed on June 29, 2005 06:22 PM

Check out the 12 Sep issue from 2003. That was out wrap up issue for the tour. The back page is a smaller size of the poster that we had printed for everyone in SFOR 13....

Michael briefed on June 29, 2005 09:18 PM

This is the kind of stuff the MSM should be reporting and they would if they really supported our troops.

cw4(ret)billt briefed on June 29, 2005 11:40 PM

Lotsa cogent comments--thanks, guys.

Phoenix - Text coming your way.

KLKK - You guys in 13 missed all the fun of living in tents and/or ConEx boxes at Comanche. And you're right about the " 'terp"--too easily confused with "Turk," which is still a real issue between the Christians and the Muslims.

risawn briefed on July 5, 2005 07:14 AM

From Personal knowledge, I can tell you that we still have troops in Bosnia. . .

SGT E of Foxholes and Dogtags . . .