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Soldier’s Father Critical Of Mission Son Wounded, Man Says Troops Don’t Belong In Bosnia

The father of a U.S. soldier wounded by gunfire in Bosnia says American troops do not belong there, and are risking their lives needlessly.

“It’s stupid to put troops in there as peacekeepers when the people still have weapons. It’s stupid,” said Terry Austin of Livingston, a military retiree. He learned Thursday night that his son, Spc. Shawn Austin, was shot at a base in U.S.-controlled northern Bosnia.

The soldier, 21, was in stable condition Friday at a U.S. field hospital. He was wounded in the left shoulder after challenging an intruder at the base. Austin was shot when it was 1:45 a.m. Friday in Bosnia and 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Livingston.

He spotted an intruder in civilian clothes attempting to break through concertina wire around Camp Linda, in Bosnian government-held territory about 40 miles south of U.S. headquarters, military officials said.

Austin challenged the intruder, who fired a shot that hit the soldier in the left shoulder, military spokesmen said. Austin was on patrol with another soldier at the time and both returned fire, headquarters said. The intruder fled.

Austin was born in Billings. His parents have resided in Livingston for about two years and were awakened at 1 a.m. Friday by the sound of the telephone. The soldier’s wife had called from Germany, where she lives, to tell them of the shooting.

“I still can’t believe this has happened,” Doreen Austin, his mother, said Friday. The Austins said they understood their son is to return to his unit in Bosnia after recovering at a hospital in Germany.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook, so many friends of ours have called asking is that our Shawn,” said Doreen Austin, who added she was disappointed the Pentagon did not contact her and her husband immediately.

The Austins said that they had feared for their son’s safety, but realized he had a duty.

“I don’t think the boys should be there, but they were ordered to go,” said Terry Austin, who operates an automobile lubrication shop in Livingston. “Shawn didn’t want to go, but he said, ‘Dad, it’s my job.”’

The young man traveled the world with his military family and is a 1993 graduate of a high school in Lakewood, Wash. His interests as a teenager included soccer, swimming and art. He joined the Army about two years ago and went to Bosnia this winter, his father said. The soldier’s family includes twin sisters who attend Park High School in Livingston.

Doreen Austin told KIRO-TV in Seattle that news of the shooting “really, really scared me.”