Tahoe man goes to Bosnia twice | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe man goes to Bosnia twice

Editor’s Note: Ed Gee, deputy forest supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, has helped in humanitarian aid efforts overseas, including three trips to Bosnia in 1996 and 1997. Some of the participants in the training seminar this week may soon be involved in similar experiences.

When I received my assignment for my first trip to Bosnia, it seemed simple but exciting. I was to assist with the air and ground transport of seven armored vehicles from Washington, D.C., to Sarejevo, Bosnia.

On paper, my task was easy: deliver the armored vehicles to the American Embassy in Sarejevo. The vehicles were to provide safe travel for the humanitarian relief work in Bosnia. However, when I left American soil, I began to realize the complexities of my mission.

My experience carried me through seven countries and numerous obstacles, which included languages, border crossings, different monetary systems and customs. Most countries were friendly and understood English. It was not until I reached the borders of Slovenia and Croatia that my difficulty began. The only thing I knew about the language, culture and protocol, I had learned during briefings in Washington, D.C.

Although I had spent two years in the Army in Germany, I had never experienced what I was about to in this small country. I saw buildings riddled by large caliber machine-gun fire from top to bottom. Bridges were destroyed on either end, thus denying safe passage. The alternative routes were through winding dirt roads constructed in haphazard fashion to escape terrible human destruction. I passed through small towns, probably once beautiful and quaint tourist attractions, which had been destroyed by bombing. One of the drivers pointed out an open-air vegetable market where Serbians had thrown a hand grenade, killing 75 women and children.

My heart went out to these men and women, and especially to children. One small girl, probably 5 or 6 years old, was missing part of her leg from the knee down. I was shocked, not only by her misfortune but even more by the fact that the driver was not bothered by what he considered normal. I thought of my own daughter, who was about here age, and quickly gave her some German marks I had.

I completed my assignment and stayed for an additional five weeks of training the local humanitarian workers on the use and safe operation of the American Chevy Suburbans. After completing my reports and briefings, I had a chance to reflect on my assignment, the people we had touched, and the opportunity to experience their culture. I thanked my lucky starts that I was born in the United States. Recognizing how fortunate we are and how much we have to share, I decided to return to Bosnia for two more assignments, each of which was as challenging, rewarding and educational as the previous one.

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