Socks project

Maj. Christophe Fix
First published in
SFOR Informer#158, February 20, 2003

On Feb. 11 and 12, a multinational CIMIC patrol including American, Finnish, French and Spanish soldiers delivered donated clothing items to three orphanages located in the Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE). This ended the successful story of a long humanitarian project, initiated by a member of Multinational Brigade North (MNB-N), Task Force Saber CIMIC/Civil Affairs staff.

Medjugorje - The charitable initiative began early in Oct. 2002 when US Sgt Joseph Balmos decided to collect children clothes in the local elementary schools of La Capelle (France). Balmos got the aid of his French parents in law, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Chemin, and was supported by a French Algerian War Vet's association. Generosity and commitment among pupils was so high that 50 boxes of clothing items eventually were collected.
Chain of solidarity
A real chain of solidarity and of good enabled the items to be shipped by road and then by a US Air Force plane from Sisonne (France) to Eagle Base where the freight was unloaded on Jan. 7, 2003. Before entering Germany, half of the load was donated to local French Red Cross, to be distributed among flood victims on both side of the border. The 25 remaining cases were taken to Camp McGovern where they were resorted. Part of the winter clothes were not intended for being delivered to orphanages; they were distributed to the Gypsy community of Modricki Lug, in MNB-N Area of operation, Jan. 22.
Since the Tuzla Orphanage is well supported by Task Force Eagle, TF Saber CIMIC looked for another institution, which would benefit from those items. With assistance from CJ9, HQ SFOR, and contacts with the French CIMIC team from MNB-SE, three orphanages located near Mostar were identified as the best possible recipients.
"In consideration that donated items were French, the idea to help Bosnian-Croat and Bosniac orphanages located in the MNB-SE under French Brig. Gen. Bernard Oberto's command was fantastic," said Balmos.
MNB-N TF Saber CIMIC and Finish CIMIC Company provided transportation assets from Camp Mc Govern to Mostar. "This is the first time I am taking part in such a mission in favor of orphans; we added our contribution in distributing some of our famous road safety reflectors," commented 1Lt. Marko Nurminen and 2Lt Matti Inkeroinen, both Finnish CIMIC officers.
All items were distributed to approximately 200 orphans living in Medjugorje, Citluk and Mostar. "On the whole, the patrol distributed 400 pairs of jeans, 1400 pairs of socks, 100 pairs of gloves, reflectors, blankest and balls," added Sfc Gary W. Duhamell, TF Saber CIMIC team leader.
Psychological therapy
Directors or religious people in charge of the different institutes always warmly welcomed patrol members. "Today, I have seen SFOR at its best. I met soldiers in service for peace; we are all members of a single family in service for peace," stated a Franciscan priest in charge of the "Mother's village" in Medjugorje.
"Most of the 41 orphans we have in this orphanage experienced very painful events during the war. Your today's action is like a psychological therapy for our kids, which will help them to break their fears towards uniforms" concluded Mrs. Sabaheta Kadic, in charge of the "Egyptian village" in Mostar.
When he nicknamed his plan 'Socks project', Balmos could hardly imagine the final outcome. "This mission became an example of the close cooperation and professionalism of the multinational SFOR Armed Forces. This is also an example of French support to US military initiatives in BiH," he emphasized in front of Mostar's orphanage. On Feb. 12, at about noon, the MNB-N patrol left Mostar and drove back to its base with the satisfaction of a well-done job. Each orphanage promised to send a letter of thanks to their French friends in La Capelle, Buiron-Fosse, Etreaupont, Claifontaine-Sommeron and Rocquigny.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Finland, France, Spain, US
Humanitarian Aid

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Photos: Lance Cpl. Sylvain Lamy

US Sgt. Josef. Balmos and Father Franciscan Svetozar Kraljevic, in charge of the orphanage of Medjugorje, with one of the items donated by French children.

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American, Finnish, French and Spanish patrol members with Mrs. Sabaheta Kadic, Director of the 'Egyptian Village' orphanage in Mostar.

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The so-called 'Socks project', another example of French support to US initiative in BiH.

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Finnish 1Lt Marko Nurminen helps downloading cases of socks and gloves in Citluk orphanage.