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Navy Ensign Donald W. Emerson, son of Bonnie D. and C. Robert Emerson, Rural Route 1, Great Bend, PA, recently was commissioned to his current rank after completing Aviation Officer Candidate School at Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL.
At the school, Donald received intensive training in naval warfare, seamanship, navigation, engineering, naval leadership, naval history, military indoctrination and physical fitness.
Donald is a 1997 graduate of Blue Ridge High School.
As the 1/109th wraps up their deployment to Bosnia, soldiers from Company C, New Milford, are looking back at the last six months of their lives. Some are wondering how this mission has changed them; most are wondering how this mission has helped the people in war-torn Bosnia. The primary purpose of the US presence in Bosnia is to provide security, which is necessary for refugees to return to their pre-war homes. But the infantrymen from Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming and Wayne Counties are doing so much more.
SFOR soldiers are completing an active weapons harvest. This gives citizens of Bosnia an opportunity to surrender anything in their homes that might be dangerous; several weapons, ammunitions, hand grenades, propelled grenades and land mines have been turned in and are scheduled to be destroyed. "A lot of people have explosives in cardboard boxes in the same room as their childrens toy boxes. Im glad I can help remove those and make that home safer," says SPC John Burke, of Forest City.
SPC Matthew Fischer, of Hallstead, helps unload insulation into a storage facility in Srebrenica.
Not everything these soldiers are doing involves dangerous war remnants. Several international agencies are working to improve the living conditions in Bosnia, and often call on the SFOR soldiers to assist. Recently, C Company soldiers provided security for and helped to unload seven trucks full of donated insulation. "I enjoy the humanitarian part of our mission even more than the military part," says SPC Brian Delaney, of Thompson. "Its days like these that assure me that what were doing here is important, and making a difference."
Many of these Pennsylvanians are utilizing their connections from civilian life to bring hope to the people of this impoverished land. Several school and church groups have mailed packages of school supplies and clothing. "We give away things that we take for granted, but the response we get is unbelievable," says SPC Ed Lucas, of Montrose. Money from a fund-raiser at Wallenpaupack Area High School recently bought heating oil for schools in the town of Srebrenica. Karla Carletti, a teacher from Pocono Mountain Academy, organized a candle drive, after learning that so many people in Bosnia live without electricity. The logistics of getting this help where its needed is the easy part. Patrols driving through the countryside of the former Yugoslavia are eager to deliver these donated items. "Everyone in our squad is an ambassador of the United States, not just a peacekeeper. Ive seen attitudes about our presence change over the last few months," said SSG Brian Evans, of Quaker Lake.
As this deployment nears its end, not only are the men from Northeast Pennsylvania getting excited, their families at home are as well. The much-anticipated reunions will place these soldiers back into their civilian shoes. Some will be seeing their parents, wives and children for the first time in eight months, while others will see their newborns for the first time ever. C Company is scheduled to return home in late March.
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