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Local soldiers head to Bosnia

By Staff
ON HIS WAY n Four-year-old Laine Walker helps her dad, Sgt. Winston Walker, load his duffel bags and gear as her mom, Rhonda, holds her sister, Ciaran Brooke. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 23, 2001
Sgt. Winston Walker will load his clothing and gear on a bus Saturday. He will kiss his wife. He will hold his two small girls for the last time at least until March.
Spending eight months in Bosnia on a peace-keeping mission will be tough for Walker and his family.
But Walker said he will go because he's a soldier.
Ready to leave
Walker is one of about 10 area men from the Mississippi Army National Guard's 150th Combat Engineers who will join a task force today in McComb. Most of the task force is made up of personnel from the 1-155th Infantry of the Army National Guard.
Their families also will travel to McComb to see them leave. The task force will travel from McComb to Ft. Benning; from there, they will fly to Bosnia.
A political power struggle fueled by religious hatred led to war in the early 1990s between Christian Croats and Serbs and Muslim Bosnians. U.S. troops have led peace-keeping missions in the American sector of Bosnia since the war officially ended in the mid-1990s.
This is the first time since the U.S. mission began that National Guard troops will outnumber Army troops in Bosnia. While the troops are trained well to minimize risks, Walker said the mission is a serious one and troops will be fully armed.
With all he is facing, Walker said he got the "easy end" of the situation. He leaves his wife, Rhonda, to tend their business, Cakes Etc., and to raise their daughters.
Wife has concerns
Rhonda has mixed emotions.
On the other hand, she said she understands why he's leaving.
Rhonda said their 4-year-old, Laine, asked her if they will ever see her daddy again. Rhonda and her husband showed Laine the video cam that the National Guard Armory set up so the family can all see each other twice a week.
Missing the baby
Rhonda said her husband gets upset when he looks at their 1-year-old, Ciaran Brooke, because she won't know him when he comes back home.
Walker's father, Tommy Walker, said he is concerned for his son's well-being but proud of his involvement.
He said the area is the site of the beginning of the World Wars, the home of troops that helped build ovens for the Holocaust. With the area as a European-Middle East "hinge," he said, unrest could be "disastrous."
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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