Hillary Clinton Thanks Troops, Says Efforts are 'Extraordinary to Behold'
(MARCOVICI, BosniaReuters) U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visited U.S. troops manning fortified outposts in northeastern Bosnia Monday and said their peacekeeping work was "extraordinary to behold." "This was the confrontation line. People didn't come out here and play around,'' said Army Sgt. Dave Mills of Somerset, Ky. as Mrs. Clinton arrived by helicopter at Camp Alicia, home of a mechanized infantry outfit and a combat engineer batallion.
Her route of flight to the camp, some 15 miles east of Tuzla, took her over burnt out villages and farm houses whose roofs had been blown off in the ferocious inter-communal fighting before last December's Paris peace agreement. A machine gun emplacement guarded the entrance of the outposts, and marked Bosnian minefields were visible outside its perimeter.
Mrs. Clinton, accompanied by daughter Chelsea, 16, met troops trained in mine clearing during a tour of the camp, including Sgt. Francisco Alcantar of Chicago, who recently saved a buddy injured in a mine clearing accident. She also saw tanks and other heavy equipment involved in the international peacekeeping operation, to which the United States is contributing about 20,000 troops.
After lunch with the troops in a makeshift dining hall surrounded by sandbags, she flew on to Camp Bedrock nine miles south of Tuzla to tour an army field hospital where one of the soldiers injured in a vehicle accident last Friday is still undergoing treatment. Pfc. Floyd Bright of Houston, Texas was killed in the accident, making him the second American to die in the NATO-led operation.
Brings USO Show to Tuzla
Mrs. Clinton, who later returned to Tuzla for a USO show starring pop singer Sheryl Crow and comedian Sinbad, said she was "amazed at how much has been accomplished in such a short period of time" by U.S. troops in Bosnia. "It's extraordinary to behold," she said. Mrs. Clinton, on the second day of a goodwill trip that will also take her to Turkey and Greece, told reporters at Camp Bedrock, "I want our troops here to know how grateful and proud we all are back home at what they're doing."
Mrs. Clinton flew to Bosnia from Germany with the two entertainers on a huge C-17 Air Force cargo jet, becoming the first U.S. first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to visit an area of conflict independently of her commander-in-chief husband. Her visit was much more extensive than the one President Clinton made in January. Because of poor weather and security concerns he never got any further than 500 yards from the Tuzla airstrip.
Before meeting the troops Mrs. Clinton had a roundtable discussion at the headquarters of the U.S. peacekeeping operation in Tuzla with prominent Bosnian citizens on how to achieve reconciliation in the former Yugoslav region. "The price of peace we paid has been very high. Without the help of America, we wouldn't have that today," Katarina Mandic, a Bosnian legislator, told the U.S. visitor. Another woman gave Mrs. Clinton a woodcarved sculpture of a woman in mourning entitled "A Wounded Mother." "I will think about all of the children who have been lost in Bosnia but I will also think about the future now," the first lady said.
During her visit Mrs. Clinton announced that the United States will provide $25 million for emergency shelter repair in Bosnia. She said this would pay for the repair of at least 2,500 homes and create an estimated 10,000 construction jobs.
Tours U.S. Air Base in Italy
Later Mrs. Clinton flew to Aviano airbase in northern Italy, hub of U.S. air operations in Bosnia and repeated her thanks to Americans involved in the peacekeeping operation. "It made me so proud to see first hand the quality of the men and women of the American armed forces so I am here to say thank you,'' she told a cheering crowd in a hanger decorated with huge American, Italian and NATO flags, shortly before flying on to her next stop, Ankara, Turkey.
She was welcomed in Bosnia by BVice President Ejup Ganic, acting as a stand-in for ailing President Alija Izetbegovic and a group of Bosnian school children. Looking very pleased, Ganic said "Thank you for coming." A young Bosnian schoolgirl read the first lady an emotional poem whose opening verse read in English, "The peace has come."
The first lady also planned to meet some of the women who have suffered through the war in the former Yugoslavia, which killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of people. In preparation for her visit, she spent Sunday trying to lift the spirits of families the U.S. troops left in Germany when they deployed to Bosnia in December and January.
Hillary Clinton Bio
Hillary Clinton General Speeches
Berserkistan is a world news service of Michael Linder Productions, Inc.
©1995-1996, All Rights Reserved