Schofield Barracks soldier Brandon Broadbent says this year's Fourth of July means more to him because of his peacekeeping duties in Bosnia-Herzegovina 8,000 miles away from Hawaii.
Independence celebrationWife keeps home fires burning
doesnt have to be on U.S. soil
By Gregg K. Kakesako
"We're here for freedom," said the Army staff sergeant, who is in charge of his company's personnel actions center at Eagle Base in Tuzla. "It's definitely an experience and I'll never forget this."
While America celebrates the nation's birthday in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with concerts, parades, picnics and fireworks, Broadbent and 1,000 fellow members of the 25th Infantry Division are standing guard in the second half of their six-month Bosnia peacekeeping mission.
The Tropic Lightning soldiers are part of U.N. Stabilization Force 11, which assumed its peacekeeping duties in April under the authority of the 1996 Dayton Peace Accords. The 25th provided the headquarters element and the largest contingent of more than 2,000 troops for the U.N. force. The rest of the mix of Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are from Indiana, Idaho and Montana.
First Lt. Andrew Marvin said he is going to miss celebrating the country's birthday with fireworks and being at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this year.
"I am definitely going to miss my girlfriend on the Fourth of July," said Marvin, who is from Philadelphia. "Hopefully, our celebration will get our allies to look at what we are doing and see what it means to us. It marks modern democracy."
Sgt. Jason Boaz, who has been in the Army for nearly a decade, said regardless of his surroundings, "the Fourth of July still means the same to me here in Bosnia, except that there won't be any fireworks."
However, Boaz, who has been on five overseas deployments, added, "The Fourth of July isn't just fireworks and barbecues. It's a time to celebrate our independence."
Spec. Jennifer Rixe, who hails from Olympia, Wash., said being in Bosnia on the Fourth is an "eye-opener."
"It makes me realize that as an American we're really lucky for what we have. It makes me proud to be here with these people, to help them have what we have."
Staff Sgt. Tereasa Menke, 35, has served for 16 years in uniform and is on her first overseas deployment.
"Fourth of July makes you realize the word freedom doesn't mean free," said Menke, who is the 25th Division's supply sergeant.
Her message to those enjoying the surf and the beach in the islands today was simple: "We're here for you guys."
BACK TO TOP
Marianela Rivera feels patriotic every day, especially this Independence Day.
Patriotic Marines wife
keeps home fires
burning in Hawaii
By Leila Fujimori
Rivera's Marine husband was deployed in March to the Persian Gulf, but it is a sacrifice in which she believes and shares. "I miss him, but at the same time, I know what he needs to do," the Panama native said. "We need to keep this country free."
For the Panamanian-born Rivera, the Fourth of July is a special day to reflect on the freedoms she has enjoyed after becoming a U.S. citizen, freedoms not enjoyed in Panama, she said.
"That's why I feel so proud my husband is doing something that I want for my country, too," Rivera said.
As the wife of a U.S. Marine for the past 19 years, she takes great pride in her husband serving her adopted country as part of "Operation Enduring Freedom."
Her husband, a senior enlisted Marine, is one of about 200 Marines from Camp H.M. Smith deployed to Bahrain earlier this year, with an average stay of five months, said Chuck Little, deputy director of public affairs for U.S. Marine Forces Pacific.
The Marine Forces Central Command Headquarters in Bahrain, which coordinates all Marine Corps operations in the Middle East is made up of Hawaii personnel, he said.
The Rivera family is but one of many military families in Hawaii with loved ones deployed overseas after the Sept. 11 attacks.
While her children Anthony, 16, Christian, 10, and Gabby, 8, are on vacation visiting relatives in Panama, Rivera remains close to home here in case the military needs to contact her.
"I was supposed to go with them, but you never know if anything happens," said the 43-year-old housewife.
Rivera thinks of herself as much a part of the Marine Corps as her husband, using the pronoun "we" when referring to the Marines. While her husband has undergone military preparedness, she points out she has had 19 years of training, surviving his absence during Operation Desert Storm and the invasion of Panama.
"We glean an enormous amount from ladies like Mrs. Rivera," said Jessica Mace, Key Volunteer Network coordinator, a Marine program that provides support for spouses.
Mace faces a challenge because Camp Smith families are not on a single base, and live scattered all over Oahu.
Some wives are upset when their husbands are shipped out or if their tour of duty is extended, Rivera said.
So Mace calls on veteran Marine wives like Rivera to lend an ear or consoling word to the wives.
Mace agrees with the bumper sticker slogan "Marine wife: Toughest job in the Corps." "These women are the most incredibly flexible people," she said.
Spouses of military personnel must be ready for deployment at a moment's notice, Mace said. Having to be both mother and father to the children and running a household can be challenging for the husband or wife of the Marine.
The Rivera children miss their father, particularly 8-year-old Gabby, who found it hard to understand why her father must go so far away for so long.
"That's Daddy's job," Rivera explained to her. "He has to do it."
Her eldest, Anthony, has been a help to his mother while his dad's away, helping with the younger ones and doing extra chores.
Keeping busy by caring for her children helps time pass quickly, said Rivera, who also enjoys reading and exercise. Her real anchor, however, is her faith.
She also leans on other Marine wives for support.
"If I feel sad, I have friends," she said. Rivera often helps other wives whose husbands are deployed, telling them, "Any time you feel lonely, we can talk."
She is prepared in case her husband is killed. The couple have discussed that possibility and made needed arrangements.
"If anything happens to him, I would not regret it," she said, knowing he had given his life for his country.
BACK TO TOP