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Sgt. Teodora Mocanu shoots photos, not weapons, at the Military Operations Urban Terrain course during Bulwark '04 at the Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria.

Sgt. Teodora Mocanu shoots photos, not weapons, at the Military Operations Urban Terrain course during Bulwark '04 at the Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Army Sgt. Teodora Mocanu knows the value of freedom. As a child growing up in Bulgaria under the shroud of communism, she has seen what it’s like to live without it.

“When you are not free, you’re not allowed to express yourself the way you want to,” said Mocanu, 26, a member of the Vipers Combat Camera team at the 7th Army Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

“[On TV], they would only show the American homeless people on the streets and how bad they lived,” Mocanu said, referring to the two government-run TV stations and one radio station available when she was a child.

Her grandfather was considered an enemy of the state because he owned property, she said, and sometimes people would disappear for days without reason.

“[The government] just took everything … and it wasn’t just my grandfather,” she added. “They just took everything from everybody to make everybody equal.”

When her name was randomly selected in a U.S. government- sponsored green card lottery, Mocanu chose to follow her father to Florida. He had left Bulgaria several years earlier after the 1989 fall of the communist government. In 2002, Mocanu became a U.S. citizen.

“I left everything that I knew [in Bulgaria],” she said. “Now, I get the opportunity to express myself, to do what I want and to see what I can achieve.”

Once in the States, the language barrier was easy for her to overcome. In addition to Bulgarian and English, she speaks Russian and Italian. She is learning Romanian, her husband’s native language.

Mocanu is putting her language skills to work this summer translating and taking pictures of American and Bulgarian troops training at Bulwark ’04.

Bulwark is the first and largest exercise between the two nations since Bulgaria joined NATO in May.

“[Bulgarian] people don’t have a lot, but they share whatever they have,” she said. “I really hope that my country will get better. Everybody wants to see the changes right away.”

Mocanu knows the challenges her country faces and hopes to continue to contribute to Bulgarian-American relations when she begins Officer Candidate School in May.

“I am an example that there is a chance for anybody to do well in the States,” she said. “A lot of people in Bulgaria are discouraged, but the experience I’ve had with the Army is, if you know what you’re doing and you are professional at your job, then your dreams can come true.”


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