Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Kosovo had elections this past weekend, though most people in the States probably paid them little or no notice. We, on the other hand, were very aware of them.

One of our presence patrols in one of those towns had stopped alongside the river (the banks of which are covered in trash, unfortunately) to dismount their vehicles and mingle amongst the townspeople who'd gathered for a political rally. We've already gotten to know a number of the locals, especially the children.

Many of them are poor; some are literally destitute and appear malnourished. It's heartbreaking.

One of the youngsters I'd met on my first trip outside the wire is a boy who speaks some English. He's learned it from hanging out with the Soldiers who go out on foot patrols, it seems. Nice kid. He has a rather shocking streak of obviously-colored red hair running across the side of his head.

Only his hairdresser knows for sure, I suspect.

We'll call him "Lee".

Lee and an older friend carrying a flag with a political party logo on it crossed the street to visit with the Soldiers who were about to mount their vehicles.

All of a sudden, one of our Soldiers grabbed the older child, just as a large tractor swerved off the road and slammed into them and the Humvee next to them. The Humvee was pushed -- sideways -- eight feet. The Soldier in the Humvee's driver seat later reported a sore neck.

Lee was grazed by the tractor's wheels, but my Soldier and the child he'd grabbed were hit by the tractor tire and chassis, pinning them against the Humvee. The child screamed and screamed, which terrified the Soldier even more than his own plight.

Lee ran off, panicked. Once the Soldier and his young charge were extricated from the situation, the child was taken to the local hospital. The Soldier insisted that he be taken back to the hospital on post -- a wise decision!  Lee later returned to the scene, and only had a slightly bruised hip.

In short, everybody was fine, though it could have been a disaster. A woman driving a black Mercedes tried to pass the tractor on the road, and hit the front left tractor tire in the process. This caused the operator of that vehicle to lose control, as the steering wheel was yanked out of his hands. The tractor crashed into the Humvee, and the people standing next to it.

All of this took just fractions of a second.

Were it not for the intrepidity of our Soldier, the child he grabbed could have been very seriously injured, or even killed. The Soldier suffered rather deep and painful bruising, but nothing more consequential. The child was treated and released from the local hospital not long after arriving there.

I arrived at the hospital not too long after my Soldier was brought there. Though he was in pain, he was much more concerned about the welfare of his two young friends than for his own.

How do you spell "hero"?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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