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Hamre Salutes Sacrifice of U.S. Troops in Bosnia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TUZLA, Bosnia, Dec. 2, 1997 – People who choose a military life often face loneliness in lands far from home, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre told American troops here. But in return for their personal sacrifice, they live "a larger life on a world stage."

"You all have chosen a lonely profession," Hamre told about 250 military men and women attending a nondenominational Thanksgiving Day service at the Comanche Base dining facility here Nov. 27. Hamre and his wife, Julia, arrived earlier in the day.

"You all would probably much rather be at home than here," he said, acknowledging the hardships of foreign duty. "There are probably many hours where you're out in the field wondering 'What in the heck am I doing out here? I'd rather be home. I'd rather be with my family. I'd rather be working a 9-to-5 job.'"

The sacrifices military families make often go unnoticed, Hamre said. "Not very many Americans, I'm sad to say, are thinking about us here today. Not every American understands what it takes to be a professional in the military today. Far too many of them are at home flipping their remotes, looking for a channel. They're not thinking about what today means to the thousands of their fellow Americans who are over here keeping peace in a land that saw so little of it."

Fortunately, Hamre said, there are people who see their lives in bigger terms. "Life is bigger than just material satisfaction," he said. "That's what puts you in a place like Bosnia. A life that is meaningful to you is a life of service."

Hamre called upon the writings of the apostle Luke to highlight the ultimate rewards of personal sacrifice. "Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope," he quoted.

Service members can choose to become bitter or they can grow from the experience, he said. "Realize that for the first time in many years, there is peace in this troubled land, and that's because of you."

Service members have a huge role to play on a much larger stage, Hamre said. "The entire world is looking at all of you. They're looking at you for the dedication, the professionalism, the sacrifice and, yes, the suffering, that you're going through to bring peace to this very scarred land."

Clearly military life can be tough, but it also provides a great sense of satisfaction, Hamre said. "You're not going to be the richest people in the world. There are going to be a lot of holidays you can't spend with your family. But when you go home at night, you can say, 'I defended the United States of America today.'

"To everyone in Bosnia, to all of our forces in Europe, this is one American who is here to say thank you."

Following the service, the Hamres served Thanksgiving dinner to Task Force Eagle troops before flying on to visit U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

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