On November 4, the official voting day in America, 186 service members deployed across Iraq became U.S. citizens at Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory.
The ceremony was headed by Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq. He expressed his appreciation for each new citizen and expounded on the significance of the step they had taken.
“Diverse as your backgrounds may be, you all now have one thing in common: you are all Americans. You represent the very best of all that our nation stands for: freedom, opportunity, equality and service.” Odierno said.
The ceremony was the 12th of its kind to be held in Iraq, but for many troops, it took on special meaning, as it occurred on Election Day for U.S. citizens. The newly naturalized servicemembers – from 60 different countries – had earned the right to vote for their new leaders.
“Honestly, I can’t even think of how blessed I am to have this privilege,” Hennessy said. “It’s a great thing.”
Spc. Rasha Hennessy, a linguist with 1st Higher Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was born in Baghdad, just miles from where she took her oath of U.S. citizenship.
She said she is ecstatic to attain her citizenship on such an important day for the United States, and she compared the freedoms she will have as a U. S. citizen to those under Saddam Hussein’s regime years ago in Iraq.
“It’s a really good opportunity to be able to vote freely and not live in fear,” Hennessy said.
Though the 186 servicemembers are new U.S. citizens, many said they’ve always felt the unity all Americans feel when serving in the military, and realize every servicemember is fighting for a common goal.