Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit By: U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Eric Stuepfert, KFOR Regional Command – East Chaplain.
The trees are beginning to turn. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year, even for the locals. Just weeks ago, the rolling mountains stood tall, covered in green as far as your eyes could see. As a Vermont Green Mountain Boy, you’d think I’d be used to this by now. The difference this year, is that I’m not in Vermont. The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) is currently deployed to Kosovo on a NATO peacekeeping mission named Kosovo Force or KFOR.
As a Chaplain, I have had the great pleasure of meeting many of the religious leaders throughout Regional Command East and have been able to observe many of the religious traditions and customs found within Kosovo. I have visited historic sites that I read about as a child, and have seen the magnificent architecture of churches and mosques throughout the Balkans. Recently I had the privilege of speaking at the Kosovo Center for Peace in Pristina.
In the speech, I stressed the words found in America’s Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Kosovo has a long history, and much of that history influences today. Like Americans, the people of Kosovo are deeply influenced by their ethnic and religious heritages. Like Americans, one generation informs the next generation about the past, both the challenges and the successes. As I travel around and interact with Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbians, I see and hear this firsthand. I have also seen the principles and values of America’s Declaration expressed. For a people with so much history, it gives me hope to hear the ideas of liberty and respect being communicated around the dinner tables. The belief that all men and women are created equal by their Creator and therefore have certain rights that transcend ethnic, religious, and historical boundaries is foundational to the respect that the people of Kosovo desire and deserve, both from the international community and with one another. The more that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be on the hearts and minds of the people of Kosovo, the more the challenges of the past can be overcome through mutual respect and cooperation.
In the future, a Kosovar may stand on top of one of their mountains that are covered in green trees. While gazing around at the beautiful landscape God has given them, they may think that they too are in Vermont, like I myself do. But this won’t be because of the mountains rising through the morning clouds or the green lush trees, but because of the freedoms they enjoy. May God bless them as they strive for liberty, and may God help the United States be an example to Kosovars and others throughout the world, as we live out the principles and values found in our Declaration.
- U.S KFOR Regional Command East
- U.S Army Europe and Africa
- US Naval Forces Europe-Africa
- U.S Air Force Europe-Africa
- The 7th Army Training
- U.S Mission NATO U.S European Command
- U.S African Command
- U.S Embassy Pristina, Kosovo
Acknowledgments: Image of U.S. Army Maj. Eric Stuepfert, Chaplain of Regional Command – East KFOR29, and Imam Labinot S. Maliqi, Executive Director – Kosovo Center for Peace, lead a prayer luncheon on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. October 5th 2021 ©KFOR Regional Command East/KFOR Regional Command East Religious Support Team. The Article is copyrighted material