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Capt. David Rader, left, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Wallace and 1st Sgt. David Jordan, all of Task Force Raptor, dance with the students of Bokovici Elementary School and their teacher, Jasminka Halilagic, at the students’ mini-graduation in Lukavac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Saturday evening. The task force has sponsored Bokovici and nine other schools and were invited by the students and teachers to celebrate eighth-grade graduation.
Capt. David Rader, left, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Wallace and 1st Sgt. David Jordan, all of Task Force Raptor, dance with the students of Bokovici Elementary School and their teacher, Jasminka Halilagic, at the students’ mini-graduation in Lukavac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Saturday evening. The task force has sponsored Bokovici and nine other schools and were invited by the students and teachers to celebrate eighth-grade graduation. (Ivana Avramovic / S&S)

LUKAVAC, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Capt. David Rader, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Wallace and 1st Sgt. David Jordan did not expect to be attending graduation parties for Bosnian eighth-graders during their peacekeeping mission in this Balkan country.

But it is all in a day’s work for these soldiers of Task Force Raptor.

The pupils and teachers wanted the troops to be a part of their celebration “because they help us, because they are our friends,” said the principal of Bokovici Elementary School, Jasminka Halilagic, in a brief break from the dancing.

Soldiers from this peacekeeping rotation, as well as those from past rotations, have befriended children and teachers from 10 Bosnian schools, helping out with supplies and small repairs, and taking time to play some basketball and soccer with the pupils.

“It’s better than being in the desert,” Wallace said.

Said Jordan, “It makes the mission cool.”

The troops were invited to make a speech to the children, who will be heading to various vocational high schools in the fall. The soldiers were met with a dance hall full of dressed-up teens, teachers, tables with food and soft drinks, and a band playing music.

“It’s incredible the amount of energy the children have,” said Rader.

In spite of their camouflage uniforms, soldiers quickly blended in, trying their best to fit in with a crowd clapping to the beat of Bosnian music.

“It’s incredibly nice to see no matter how old or young you are, everybody is enjoying each other’s company,” Jordan said.

“To me, it’s just an honor that they think so highly of us that they’d want to invite me to this,” Jordan said. “I’m in awe.”

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