Under a balmy autumn sun, American troops distributed school supplies, clothes and shoes Friday to more than 400 women and children impoverished by the Bosnian war.
"The kids, they reach out and steal your heart after all they've been through," said Spc. Shonda Sherrod.
Her 181st Transportation Battalion, part of the American contingent in the NATO-led peace force for Bosnia, has adopted the refugee settlement in Zivinice, located near Tuzla in northeastern Bosnia. The U.S. troops have been coming here since April. Much of the material has been collected by family members at the battalion's base in Mannheim, Germany.
"Their innocence has been abducted," said Spc. Sherrod, 21, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., as she watched a young girl in the doorway of her temporary home. The refugees live in four two-story apartment blocks built by a Norwegian charity.
The battalion's chaplain, Capt. Matt Woodbery of Atlanta, said many of the troops questioned the wisdom of the deployment to Bosnia last December and January. Now, he said many feel they have made a real contribution.