From the Department of Defense:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 4, 2007 – Hundreds of troops gathered at Al Faw Palace for the Multi-National Force-Iraq Reenlistment, Naturalization and Independence Day Ceremony today at Camp Victory. During the ceremony, 588 troops reenlisted and 161 were naturalized as American citizens.
Army Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general, MNF-I, gave opening remarks before administering the Oath of Enlistment.”This morning we pay tribute to the American ideals we all hold so dear in several significant ways,” he said.
“First, by conducting what surely is the largest reenlistment event ever held in Iraq and perhaps in our Armed Forces’ history, then by celebrating the granting of American citizenship to a group of troopers who have already pledged their loyalty to our nation by putting their lives on the line for it, and finally by observing the 231st birthday of our great country,” he said.
Petraeus said the troops who reenlisted on Independence Day, most while serving on a second or third deployment to a combat zone, have made a decision based on far more than any bonus they may receive.
“No bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you has made and continues to make as a custodian of our nation’s defenses,” he said. “Nor can any amount of money compensate you adequately for the sacrifices you make serving here in Iraq or the burdens your loved ones face at home in your absence. And we certainly cannot put a price on the freedoms you defend or those we are trying to help the Iraqis establish and safeguard here in the land of the two rivers.”
Petraeus then dedicated the Independence Day ceremony in honor of two soldiers who died fighting for America before they could be sworn in as citizens.
“Sgt. Kimel Watt and Spc. Farid Elazzouzi, who would have been in your ranks here this morning, were lost in recent combat action, giving the last full measure of devotion for a country that would have become fully theirs today,” Petraeus said. “Words can not express the admiration I feel for these two men or the sadness I feel for our nation’s loss and their families’ sacrifice.”
Petraeus said the deaths are reminders that freedom comes at a very high cost, which must never be forgotten. Like these two soldiers, who fought and died with the American flag on their shoulders, he said the troops being naturalized as U.S. citizens were most deserving.
“When you enlisted into the Armed Forces you swore to support and defend a Constitution that did not yet fully apply to you,” Petraeus said. “You chose to endure the same sacrifices as your fellow comrades in arms to preserve the freedom of a land that was not yet fully yours. You accepted that you might have to pay the ultimate price on behalf of a nation to which you did not fully belong. Now, you will officially become citizens of the United States, a country to which each of you has already borne true faith and allegiance in your hearts and your deeds.”