By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Among the thousands of stories WCCO’s Bill Hudson has told in his career, he recalls a Christmas trip to Bosnia in 2003.

He and photojournalist Dave Chaney went to visit Minnesota National Guard soldiers deployed on a peacekeeping mission. The story captured the deployment of local soldiers a world away, and nobody loved sharing the service and sacrifice of veterans more than Hudson.

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Outside her simple home in Nova Kasaba, a Bosnian woman gathers wood for winter. While nearby, soldiers of Taskforce Bearcat are on patrol to preserve her peace.

Eight years after ethnic cleansing ripped this country apart, 1,100 Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers are patching it back together. For six months, they will patrol its towns, collecting weapons and distributing good will.

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To see the mission firsthand, we traveled to three of the bases where Minnesota soldiers are at work. Riding Humvees on daily patrols, you’re barraged by the sight of so many empty homes, with brick facades still scarred by bullets and bombs.

To further stabilize Bosnia, soldiers conduct Operation Active Harvest, confiscating hidden ordnance like rockets, grenades and ammunition, which are then placed in huge dumps and wired for detonation.

Within seconds, the tools of killing are gone for good, and out of the hands of Bosnian Serbs and Muslims. Yet, soldiers are absorbed by hopeful images, too, like when a Bosnian woman came down her steps offering to share a shot of the national drink — a plum brandy called šljiva.

Not far from the woman’s home is the Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial. It’s inscribed with a simple prayer: “May grievance become hope, may revenge become justice, and Mother’s tears may become prayers that Srebrenica never happen again.”

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Bill Hudson is retiring Friday after 31 years at WCCO.

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