BBQ with the smile!

Damir Gulamovic
First published in
SFOR Informer#172, August, 2004

"It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving" Mother Teresa

A military bus escorted by a Slovenian MP vehicle is not an unusual scene for Bosnia and you should not expect to attract a lot of attention from the people who are walking on the streets of Sarajevo on Sunday August 8th. This time was the exception; people were smiling and waving towards the bus and MP vehicle packed with children from Bjelave Orphanage and SOS village. The kids were on the way to Camp Butmir to be hosted by the US NSE and Operation Smile for the second time this year.
Soon after this unusual motorcade arrived on Camp Butmir there was no time for immediate fun, the children were seated down and given a lesson that they might need for their entire life, mine awareness-training design especially for this occasion by Tom Lynham.
Enjoying his role as a host RSM Beattie, who probably for a first time in his career, voluntarily gave up his blackthorn stick to a five years old, who took charge and took us all to the second leg of this event. This was a Military and Fire fighting vehicle display. While jumping all over, exploring the Austrian APC, and checking out Hungarian riot gear, a 6 year old girl tries to beat the Carabiniere and see how effective theirs body armor is... For the first time kids were allowed to shoot guns, water guns, to be correct.
The pilots, with the US Blackhawk made a very smart move when they decided to secure the plug of every single cable in the helicopter: otherwise I am not sure that helicopter would have started. Within seconds we had over 20 overqualified, underage pilots exploring the aircraft.
A group photo marked the end of first set of educational activities and we moved to the sport activities center. CPT DeSaine as the US NSE host responsible for sport activities realized that this time scheduled activities might be forgotten. Instead she decided to be wherever she was needed.
Not everybody was in mood for sports; some kids decided to do some art instead of chasing the gigantic ball over the field or playing beach volleyball. PO1 Brown's experience as third grade teacher was irreplaceable. Some of the children were happy to be calm for a minute or two in order to get face painted with rainbows, hearts and smiles.
LTC Fecas was working hard with SMSgt Harris preparing everything for the BBQ so CPT Braudis could cook all food she purchased the day before when running from shopping center to shopping center together with a professional shopper, Mr. Busby.
First Sergeant Crosby was there to ensure that everything was on schedule and at the right place at the right time. With help of PFC Lewis who volunteered every time he needed assistance that was not difficult.
The play performed by children from SOS village was most rewarding for YN2 Wray and Mr. Spegal as they spend several months working with those kids.
The last leg of this event was a BBQ; the "chefs for a day" should never fear that they would stay jobless! LT Drabicki should be aware that Mr. Mensier White House pastry Chef just retired, after I tasted brownies she baked that morning I will be more than happy to write her a letter of recommendation if she decides to apply for that position, I am not sure that my letter will count but still, who knows!
Watching SPC Keenan seating on the floor and giving all her love to 14 years old girl who (despite of her fragile health and obscure future) was happiest kid on the earth at the time, seeing the young boy hugging COL Smith, and looking at the smiles on the faces of all those who were involved was biggest reward, at the same time one religious saying that I read long time ago came to my mind:
"Those who find the way to put a smile on kid's face will have a house in paradise, that house will be called house of happiness"
I am not sure if I will end up in that house, but if I do I have no doubts that would be my next-door neighbors
Christina Keenan, Gary Busby, Farrah Newman, Kelly Braudis, Anna Drabicki, Crystal Wray, John Fecas, Patrick Hilgendorf, Randy Harris, Farrah Newman, George Wallace, Debbie Douglas, Jeanette Stuart, Monica Bamford, Violette Cameron, Betty Brown, Kristen Grover, Scott Cooper , Joel Dannelley, Jim Smith, Christopher Crawford, Wendy Whitehurst, George Wolford, Jan Jaydee Dungca, Michael Provins, Maurice Ellison, Matthew Golden, Anthony Cardenal, Randall Johnson, Jason Murray, Wesley Fleming, Ricardo Cecilio, Bill Bernhard, Lowrence Cooper, Mark Medly, Scott Dierlam, Kayla Lewis, Allen McNeill, Christine DeSaine, John Fecas, Bryant Crosby, Douglas Beattie, Jason Bowen.
Good thing about this neighborhood is that there is plenty of room for all those who decide to join us next time.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: US
Humanitarian Aid

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Spc Christina Keenan enjoyes a quiet moment with one of the kids.

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The children become firefighters for the day.

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The children watch as a Blackhawk pops in for a visit.