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First U.S. Blood In Haiti: A Shock To American Troops With AM-Haiti, Bjt

September 25, 1994

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ The Marines were lucky, getting away with one casualty - a flesh wound - in a firefight with Haitians outside a northern police station. But it was first blood nonetheless, a quick jolt that the U.S. intervention in Haiti won’t be so easy.

″There’s a little bit of a shock. Like, ’Oh, it’s happening, it’s here, it’s real,″ says Army chaplain Pete Martinez, preparing to deliver a service Sunday for some of the American soldiers bivouacked at Port-au-Prince airport.

″Even though these guys are veterans from Somalia ... well, we want to just try to relieve that and keep that down to a low calm,″ said Capt. Martinez, 37, a Pentacostal chaplain from Yuma, Ariz.

News of the firefight, which left 10 Haitians killed and a U.S. Navy translator slightly wounded, spread quickly around the airport. Many of the GIs resting in the former passenger air terminal were not surprised that the first skirmish came with Haitian authorities.

″I think right now it’s the (Haitian) police force is what we have to worry about. The Haitian people are no problem,″ said Spec. E-4 Mike Roberts, 21, of Nevada City, Calif., among the 10,000 Americans troops here.

Roberts, a member of the First Corps Support Command in Ft. Bragg, N.C., expressed regret that Americans didn’t invade to take out the brutal military. The invasion was called off at the last minute, after Haiti’s military coup leaders agreed to step down by Oct. 15.

″I just wish the process was a lot quicker, because the people are going to get anxious,″ he said, sitting on a baggage conveyor belt. But at least no one got killed in the intervention, he added.

Over at the metal detector, Army Cpl. Mark Gagas was talking about war and loss with his buddies from the 10th Mountain Division of Ft. Drum, N.Y.

″You should always come in expecting the worst,″ said Gagas, 24, of Syracuse, N.Y. ″If you stay too relaxed, that’s when your butt is in the wind.″

The prospect of future battles dominated the small talk among 25 soldiers lining up to use the airport’s two direct public phone lines to the United States.

Pfc. Jeremy Shepard, 21, of Middleville, Mich., said he’d already been waiting an hour in hopes of calling to assure his fiancee, Rebecca Forbes of Freeport, Mich., that he was OK.

″I love her, and miss her and I’ll try to see her soon,″ said Shepard, a crew chief on a Chinook helicopter. ″We’re supposed to be married in February, so I hope I’m there in time.″

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