One final Thanksgiving feast in Bosnia
November 26, 2004
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The weather outside was more suited to the Finnish and Swedish peacekeepers that are now calling Eagle Base home.
But Thursday definitely had an American feel for people of every country eating on base. Even though most of the Yanks are headed home soon, they found time for Thanksgiving — quite probably the last time that holiday will be celebrated by so many in Bosnia.
Many troops said they had a lot to be thankful for this year.
“I’m thankful for a successful rotation,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Johnson.
“Nobody got killed or died. My family is safe at home and I’ll be there soon with them. Missed Thanksgiving, but I’ll be there for Christmas.”
“I’m thankful that our country is willing to share the blessings and benefits we have with another country like Bosnia,” said Lt. Col. Lee Baker, who said that he’s enjoyed his tour in Bosnia. “It’s been an honor and privilege.”
“I’m thankful it was a successful mission,” said Capt. Cleopatra Thompson. “We did what we were supposed to and now we can go home.”
All but about 250 American troops will head home soon. A ceremony Wednesday marked the end of Task Force Eagle, the main American mission in country, after nine years. NATO officially turns over peacekeeping duties to the European Union in a ceremony Dec. 2.
EU troops already outnumber American personnel on Eagle Base, a sprawling complex, which thousands of Americans have called home over the last decade.
The past few days have been sunny, but cold. But inside the two dining halls, though, there was plenty of warmth. And food.
And people. Troops from Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Ireland and Greece were among those joining Americans at the table. Rusmir Osmic, who manages one of the facilities, said he expected to feed about 800 people.
“We don’t serve crab legs every day,” he said. But turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken and all sorts of other dishes appeared to be just as popular. The troops from other countries didn’t appear to know what Thanksgiving was about, but that didn’t stop them from sampling all of dishes.
More than a few Americans said they’ll miss sharing cultures when they go home.
“I’m thankful for all the friends I made here,” said Capt. Kevin Davenport. “Good friends. I’ll probably stay in contact with them after I get home. Not only people from Bosnia, but the other countries who are here.”
“Most of all, I’m thankful for being alive,” said 1st. Sgt. Euripides Perez. “But also to be given the opportunity to work with some great people that are over here, Bosnian nationals and our military partners.
“Being away from my family has been hard and I miss my kids very much. God willing, I’ll be home for Christmas.”