In January 1993 Collette Webster, a 27 year old store owner from Michigan, USA made the decision to uproot her life and try to help the ever growing refugee population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. She eventually made contact with the Croatian aid organization Suncokret (Sunflower) and was placed within a camp in the town of Medugorje, Bosnia containing Croat and Muslim women and children forced to flee the heavy fighting in the city of Mostar some fifteen miles away.
After a short time there, Collette was transferred to a camp housed in an abandoned school at Posusje and temporary home to some two thousand Muslim refugees from the Travnik area of central Bosnia. It was here that Collette really found herself and in no time she was teaching English, Mathematics and Art whilst learning Croatian for herself. She later moved on to Capljina to work for a German organization building a transit camp from some disused railway carriages for more of Travnik's Muslims. She personally converted one compartment to a schoolroom.
Collette became particularly involved with one village. Ravno was one of the first Bosnian villages ethnically cleansed by the Serbs during their unsuccessful siege of the Croatian city of Dubrovnik in 1991. Every building, every animal in Ravno was destroyed and the church desecrated in various ways. In May 1993 she told her fiancee, "When this war is over, I'm going to live here."
By July, with the financial demise of the charity employing her Collette, drawing on the knowledge of an Emergency Medical Training course undertaken in the USA, volunteered to help in the Triage area of Mostar's General Hospital, helping to assess and prepare the wounded for surgery. The hospital refused to discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity, which pleased Collette immensely. "Why should someone die because of the religion they believe in," she insisted. Even in this role, she felt she could be doing more and after a month in Triage she approached the HVO and volunteered as a frontline combat medic.
On Monday the 27th September Collette was in west Mostar, scene of some heavy fighting during that year. She was armed only with a medical kit and an apple pie baked for the soldiers. At an area known as The Rondo she was in a room at the top of an abandoned apartment block with a group of International Volunteers who were observing an area captured only the day before; they were in this position for approximately half an hour when a muzzle flash was spotted in the boulevard below. A rocket fired from an RPG-7 came through the window and exploded behind Collette. She was blown to the far side of the room, conscious but mortally wounded with serious lacerations to her stomach, liver, pancreas and right arm.
In a commandeered car, Collette was rushed to the hospital where she had previously worked. The doctors and nurses who were also her friends fought desperately to keep her alive but it was a battle that could not be won and at 10.30 that night, Collette died.
Her body was driven to Split in Croatia the next day and then flown to the capital Zagreb for cremation. At the morgue in Split, twenty nurses were in attendance, each holding a white rose in one hand and a candle in the other.