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Clinton Salutes U.S. Forces in Bosnia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Dec. 23, 1997 – During a preholiday visit to Bosnia Dec. 22 President Clinton told American troops thanks to their efforts, the Balkan nation is no longer "the powder keg at the heart of Europe."

"We gave you a mission and you delivered," Clinton told members of the Army's 1st Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "What you are doing for your country is a good and noble thing," he said. "You are doing it well, and we are grateful."

First lady Hillary Clinton and Clinton's daughter Chelsea accompanied the president to Bosnia. Noting it's tough to be away from friends and family, especially during the holidays, Mrs. Clinton announced a special gift to help troops stay in touch. "AT&T, working with the Department of Defense, has donated $1 million so that each and every one of you stationed in Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary will have an hour's worth of free phone time to share with your families," she said.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Sen. Robert Dole, 11 congressmen, Secretary of the Army Togo West and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Hugh Shelton accompanied the president.

Clinton said the delegation traveled to Bosnia first to thank the troops for their service and second to encourage Bosnian officials to honor the peace accord.

Before their stop at Eagle Base in Tuzla, the president stopped in Sarajevo. There, he called on Bosnians of all ethnic groups to work together to promote peace.

"They made an agreement at Dayton that we are doing our dead level best to help them enforce," Clinton said. The United States is determined not only to do its part, but also expects the Bosnians to theirs, he said.

The president told American troops at Eagle Base the young Muslims, Serbs and Croats he met in Sarajevo all want peace. "It was like a chorus," Clinton said, "They said, 'Stay just a little longer. We don't understand why we're supposed to hate each other. We don't want that kind of future. Please stay.'"

Clinton's visit came four days after he announced U.S. forces will participate in a follow-on peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. "In spite of all you have done," he said in Tuzla, "I think it is imperative that we not stop until the peace here has a life of its own, until it can endure without us. We have worked too hard to let this go."

He related Dole's assessment of the situation, who said the mission in Bosnia is like being ahead in the fourth quarter of a football game. "Who wants to walk off the field and forfeit the game?" Clinton asked. "We ought to stay here, finish the game and take home the win for the world and for freedom."

Clinton closed his remarks quoting a poem written by Specialist Christina Campbell, a soldier stationed at Eagle Base:

"No, this is not our soil and it's not our own fight.

But if you've seen what I have, then you know that it's right."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTask Force Eagle soldiers and their allies greet President Bill Clinton at Tuzla Air Field, Bosnia, Dec. 22. Spc. Richard L. Branham, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePresident Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea shake hands with Task Force Eagle soldiers at Eagle Base, Tuzla, Bosnia, Dec. 22. Staff Sgt. Johancharles V. Boers, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Gen. Larry R. Ellis, Task Force Eagle commander, welcomes President Bill Clinton and his family to Eagle Base, in Tuzla, Bosnia, Dec. 22. Staff Sgt. Johancharles V. Boers, USA.  
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