Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Veteran Talks about His Peaceful Tour

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Veteran Talks about His Peaceful Tour

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

It was study in contrasts at Ware County High School's Veterans Day program Thursday.

The speaker was a fresh-faced young man with no war stories but plenty about peace.

Spc. Brantley Thrift didn't intend to be a veteran at this stage of his life. He is a Georgia National Guardsman called up with the 121st Infantry for a six-month peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, from which he returned Sept. 4.

"I went for the schooling," he said of his military career. "I got the call and I went. I never expected to have to go this soon."

Thrift was the featured speaker at the Veterans Day observance held by the school's Army Junior ROTC cadets. Not long ago, he had been one of them. He had stood at parade rest while someone spoke. But Thursday it was his amplified voice that said, "Please do not take for granted what God has allowed us to do, the freedom to worship, work and play."

His tour of duty in Bosnia had been quiet. Some of his fellow peacekeepers had complained it was boring.

"It was a good peaceful tour the whole time," he said.

But also among this audience were some people with war stories, some old men who had seen their friends' blood soak into foreign soil. Standing with his fiancee, Elizabeth Osburn, after the program, Thrift acknowledged as much.

"Even though I'm called a veteran, the guys sitting around me have seen far worse than I've seen," he said.

One of them was Louis Herrin, who retired from the Army in 1979 as a master sergeant after 23 years of service that included tours in Korea and Vietnam. He missed the war in Korea and claims to have done little more than shuffle papers in Vietnam as an adviser to Korean forces fighting there.

As the observance ended, Herrin walked away wearing a cervical collar from recent neck surgery and with an oxygen bottle slung over his shoulder. Herrin's health problems are not the result of an old war wound or any part of his service. …

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