Along the Way: War torn past--peaceful present

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It's a classic spin on a classic cliche': You can't tell a book by it's cover.
It's a story of war, peace, and irony--and a man who's lived all 3.
This week we go we go "Along the Way" to a popular local winery and brewery sitting peacefully in the heart of the hills.

Just outside Hill City, sits a place known for it's soothing setting and serene surroundings. People come from near and far to sample the smooth local flavors of the Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewing Company.

Ermin Husidic, Hospitality Manager of Prairie Berry and Miner Brewing says, "Making sure we're providing a good product, great service to everyone that comes through, making sure that everyone has a good time."

31 year old Ermin Husidic is the attraction's hospitality manager.

His smile is contagious. His voice is soft. And the fact that his job is providing a place of peace is a bit ironic, considering his background includes multiple war zones. Husidic joined the Air Force after graduating high school in Indiana and was stationed at Ellsworth. In 2006,he was deployed, working in ground transportation carrying supplies, at night, from Kuwait to US bases all across Iraq--where he recieved multiple medals for working in a combat zone.

Ermin Husidic says, "We always said we moved beans, band-aids, and bullets, you know pretty much across the spectrum."

Here's a picture he says he took of a US diesel truck hit in Iraq by an IED. And here's how he describes the sound of gunfire hitting their armored semis.

Ermin Husidic says, "I don't know if you've ever made popcorn on a stove top, in a kettle instead of a microwave but that's kind of what it sounds like, popping and hitting the pan."

There's more, Ermin was not a US citizen when he joined the Air Force, but became one during his service.

Ermin Husidic says, "I got to have my swearing in, in front of Mount Rushmore which is really cool."

You see Ermin moved to the US with his family in 1999, after spending the first 13 years of his life in Bosnia, but when Yugoslavia broke apart, things got nasty.

Ermin says, "There was wars happening in Serbia and Croatia and Bosnia."

His family fled their farm as the fighting moved in, spending time in multiple refugee camps. This is a family video from 2003 where he says his Grandpa gives a sort of tour of their home, partially repaired after the war. But as for old family pictures, they were a casualty of a country devastated by war.

Husidic says, "It was 1 day you're in school, next day you're walking to a camp and you know you have 10's of thousands of people walking or they have horses or they're in horse drawn carriages or tractors."

He says he was 8 years old when they reached their first camp. He says he has no personal pictures of those camps. These are a couple newspaper pictures from the final camp they were at. Many others had it worse.

Ermin Husidic says, "There was concentration camps in different areas and I'm sure you've heard of the ethnic cleansing and things like that that ways happening."

This is a post war picture of a repaired school he says he went to, as did his father, and grandfather.
This is the only picture he could find of himself as a child. It's him with his Aunt and Uncle.
A couple years ago he went back to visit, and has pictures of himself spendint time with his Grandfather.
Now he has an MBA in international business, and no complaints.

Ermin Husidic says, "Every single part of it led me to different place and led me to where I'm at now, and I'm happy, live here. I'm married, house, have everything I could have ever wanted."

If he changed anything he says it would for folks who had it worse than him.

"I seen the little kids in Iraq begging for food. I'd change things for them or some of my friends in Bosnia that lost their parents," he says.

Ironic after growing up in country that would be torn up by war, serving under fire in Iraq, to now be serving as hospitality manager with a smile on his face in a place known for it's soothing setting and peaceful surroundings.

His father and family live in Indiana. They still own the farm in Bosnia...where his grandfather still lives.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call us or e-mail me at stevel@blackhillsfox.com to let us know.