In the late 1990s, Mike Shelton represented the United States as a member of the armed forces in Bosnia.
Twenty years later, another Shelton embarked on a mission to the Balkan nation.
New York City FC rookie forward Khiry Shelton is currently training and playing with the United States Under-23 National Team in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Shelton’s father was part of the United States Army 1st Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment that was tasked with peacekeeping enforcement efforts in Bosnia from December 1995 to November 1996.
“Yeah, it’s a very small world if you look at it that way,” Khiry said.
“I was shocked when I heard he was going there,” said Mike, who retired from active duty in 2006. “It is a small world. I told him what he gets to see is way better than the portion I saw.”
Shelton and the U.S. U23s play Bosnia & Herzegovina on Friday in Tuzla before heading to Copenhagen for a match against Denmark on March 31.
“I was really, really pleased for him because obviously when you have a player like this you see day in and day out, you think he’s something special so to have other soccer people making soccer decisions recognize that is a good thing,” New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis said. “He deserves it and hopefully he takes full advantage of that opportunity.”
“It's a blessing to have been called up to the U23 national team and I am thankful to get an opportunity to represent U.S.A.," Khiry said.
While Khiry is in Bosnia to represent his country on the soccer field, his father represented America in an entirely different scope.
Mike’s platoon was initially in charge of providing security for the Army engineers as they bridged the Sava River. Once that was accomplished, the squad was tasked with peacekeeping operations leading up to the 1996 Bosnian general elections.
“We were in charge of making sure everything went right and made sure our escorts were safe,” Mike said. “Our task was to make sure everything for the election was safe and everybody was able to vote. That was our main mission: peacekeeping. The whole thing was to help try to bridge the gap between the Croats and the Serbs over there because they had been fighting for years.”
Two Sheltons traveling to Bosnia and representing the United States 20 years apart – it is a small world after all.