T.O. FATHER, SON SIGN ON AS INTERPRETERS FOR BOSNIA PEACE MISSION.
As a 19-year-old, Steve Nanesnik served with the U.S. Marines on Okinawa in World War II. Nearly 50 years later, he's getting a chance to serve the United States and his native country, Croatia, in a new role.
Nanesnik is among 46 linguists, most of them natives of Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary and two from Thousand Oaks, who left Fort Benning on Friday for Bosnia, where they will serve as interpreters for U.S. troops in the NATO peacekeeping effort.
Nanesnik, a 69-year-old retired postmaster from Newton Falls, Ohio, said deciding to join the interpreters wasn't difficult.
"I feel we owe the (American) boys over there our help, and I have relatives in Koprivnica, Croatia," he said.
He said he hopes the NATO presence will help prevent more fighting.
Some of the younger linguists said serving in Bosnia will be an adventure. Nanesnik is taking the job as an Army contract employee seriously.
"I'm not looking for fun," he said.
Two Sejfo Hamilics - a 53-year-old father and his 22-year-old son - are among the group.
"I signed on because I want to help the U.S. make the area peaceful so the Bosnian people can get on with normal lives," said the younger Hamilic, who works in a tuxedo shop in Thousand Oaks.
His father is a general contractor in Thousand Oaks.
Most of the linguists found out about the opportunity from advertisements on the Internet. They will earn between $48,000 and $52,000 for a year's service.
Before their departure, soldiers briefed them on the threat in Bosnia, including land mines and snipers, for four days.
Sgt. 1st Class Augustus Francis put the interpreters through extensive drills Thursday on how to use gas masks.
"Do not take this class lightly," he advised.
Lidija Johnson of Chicago was born in Serbia and lived in Croatia and Sarajevo before coming to the United States about 30 years ago.
"But I didn't become a citizen until 1992. I wanted to make sure, first, to myself, that I wanted to be an American. I didn't want to be two-faced," she said. Now, "I'm going back to help our troops."