Thursday, July 09, 2009

Citizenship ~ Fought For and Earned

Soldiers and Marines stand for the pledge of allegiance as the flags they were presented during their naturalization process sit neatly in their chairs. More than 230 troops were naturalized at the Multi National Force - IraqNaturalization Ceremony at Al Faw Palace at Victory Base Complex, Baghdad, Iraq on July 4.

U.S. troops from throughout Iraq raise their right hand while reciting the Oath of Citizenship during the Multi National Force - Iraq Naturalization Ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Victory Base Complex, Baghdad, Iraq. More than 230 troops were naturalized as U.S. Citizens

An Iraqi-born U.S. soldier turned American citizen, Spc. "Brown," right, an interpreter for the 225th Engineer Brigade, serves as a translator during the training of members of Iraq's 2nd National Police. Brown, who uses the nickname to protect members of his family who still live in Baghdad, joined 236 other U.S. servicemembers to take the oath as American citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Camp Liberty, Iraq, July 4, 2009.
U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Pat Simon

Face of Defense: Iraqi-born Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen

By Army Lt. Col. Pat Simon
Special to American Forces Press Service


Army Spc. "Brown," an interpreter with the 225th Engineer Brigade, joined 236 other servicemembers who raised their right hands and recited the oath of citizenship as new Americans at Al Faw palace here July 4.

Brown isn't the soldier's real name; it's a nickname given to him by an Army officer, and he's kept it to protect the lives of his family members who live in Baghdad.

"It is an amazing feeling," Brown said soon after shaking Biden's and Odierno's hands. "I was shaking -- nervous."

Brown recalled growing up and living under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

"As a student, I remembered that we had to stay behind the wall to stay safe from the former Baath Party," he said. "You could not talk about politics. Those that did disappeared."

Brown received his education in civil engineering and got a job in Baghdad as a supervisor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He quickly found that his daily commute to Tikrit to check on water, sewer and electrical projects would become a frightening trek.

"The security was very bad," he recalled. "There were many sectarian problems over here. It was not easy moving from area to area. It was very dangerous."

He also became emotionally scarred by the way some fellow Iraqis treated him because of his tenure working for the U.S. Army.

"Many of them thought I was a traitor," Brown said. "They called us very bad names. They did not realize that when we did our jobs, we did them for the Iraqi people."

Brown said he felt he no longer had a future in his war-torn country. He had to leave his father, brother and two sisters behind to set a new course for freedom and opportunity in America.

Brown was granted a special immigrant visa. His first stop was in Denver, to live with his uncle. Brown tried to find a job in engineering, but he found nothing. He remembered a friend who was a former associate of his in Iraq. He called her, and within a few days, Brown and his wife were in St. Louis, staying with his friend, who suggested that he apply for a program that would change his life. He didn't know it at the time, but it would put him back on his homeland's soil.

Within weeks, Brown was at U.S. Army basic training as a new recruit. As a qualified interpreter, he was on the fast track to deployment to Iraq. The program also expedited his ability to receive his U.S. citizenship.

"It's truly amazing to have this new opportunity," Brown said.

Four months ago, Brown was attached to the 225th Engineer Brigade. He found himself right in the middle of history, engaging in conversations between military leaders from both countries. As a military engineer interpreter, Brown literally has bridged the gap between two worlds, and he has finally come to grips with his past and his future.

"It's a big responsibility," he said. "I know I am making a difference. This is important for me."

By the end of the year, Brown will again have to leave his beloved birthplace behind, but the circumstances are different this time.

"My old life is over for me here, but I would like to return and visit one day as an American citizen," he said.

One of the many stories of the soldiers who became citizens on Independence Day.
I'm proud to welcome them as citizens of our country!

1 comment:

Mike's America said...

These are the kinds of immigrants we need and welcome in this country.

Clearly they understand the sacrifice necessary to preserve freedom.