Soldier Fulfills Army Dream
(August 18, 2009)
Army Spc. Claudy Bellanger's experiences with U.S. soldiers as a boy growing up in Haiti led to his joining the Army.
August 10, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C., August 13, 2009
As an 8-year-old boy sitting on the roof of a friend's house in
war-torn Haiti in 1994, Claudy Bellanger saw a sight that captivated his
attention: helicopters speeding past carrying American soldiers.
“I'd never seen them with my own eyes before, only on television,” he said.
Bellanger's boyhood experiences with U.S. troops in his home country set him on
a path that eventually led him to join the U.S. Army.
Today, Bellanger, 23, is an Army specialist assigned to the 82nd Airborne
Division's A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment,
2nd Brigade Combat Team.
His journey began in Jacmel, Haiti, where he was born and lived for the first 18
years of his life.
For much of his childhood, Haiti was a military dictatorship.
government took money from its citizens, who couldn't
afford to buy food or go to school, Bellanger said. “As a Third World country, it's pretty rough to
live there,” he said.
Bellanger recalled participating in protests against the government as a young
boy, waving tree branches in the air and yelling. At these riots, the
government's paramilitary police force would gas the crowds. The larger the
crowds became, the more people were hurt or killed, he said. |
President Bill Clinton sent U.S. forces into Haiti in September 1994 as part of
Operation Restore Democracy. The goal was to end human rights abuses against the
people of Haiti and reinstate the democratically elected president,
On Sept. 18, 1994, Haitian leaders learned that paratroopers with the
“All-American” 82nd Airborne Division were on their way to conduct a parachute
assault into Haiti. They quickly agreed to give up power, and the aircraft
carrying the paratroopers were called back.
Later, soldiers from the 82nd's 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment deployed to
Haiti to support the peacekeeping operation. Bellanger had several memorable
interactions with the soldiers, including eating his first meals, ready-to-eat
beef dinner. “I think that was the best meal,” he said. “It was good compared to
what I was eating.”
A more significant experience came when Bellanger approached two American
soldiers on guard duty and asked how he too could join the U.S. Army. One of the
soldiers gave him a recruiting business card, and Bellanger ran home to make the
call. He was told that, in addition to being too young, he needed to become a
U.S. citizen. And that's what he did.
At 18, Bellanger left Haiti to live with his father in Jersey City, N.J., where
he spent two years learning English and earned his GED diploma. “I didn't want
to waste any time,” he said.
Bellanger again called the number on that business card that he had kept for 12
years, and joined the Army at last. “I was so focused and determined to make it,
that I did everything that I could,” he said. “I just wanted to be in the Army.
Now I'm in the 82nd. It's a dream come true.”
Article and photo by Army Pfc. Kissta M. Feldner
82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
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