Wednesday, July 04, 2007

US troops in Iraq mark July 4 holiday

Yahoo News July 4, 2007

Hundreds of U.S. troops marked the Fourth of July by re-enlisting in the military Wednesday while others took their oaths of American citizenship in ceremonies at the main U.S. headquarters in Iraq.

A total of 588 troops signed up for another stint in the military, according to a U.S. military statement. Another 161 became naturalized American citizens.

"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," the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, told the audience at Camp Victory.

"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 dedicated the Independence Day ceremony to the memory of two soldiers who were killed in action before they could be sworn in as citizens.

They were Sgt. Kimel Watt, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was killed June 3 in Baghdad, and Spc. Farid Elazzouzi of Paterson, N.J., who died June 14 in a bombing near Kirkuk.

"Words cannot 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.

Visiting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., congratulated the new citizens and spoke of the hardships endured fighting in an unpopular war.

"You know that you who have endured the dangers and deprivations of war so that the worst thing would not befall us, so that America might be secure in our freedom," McCain said. "As you know, the war in which you have fought has divided the American people. But it has divided no American in their admiration for you. We all honor you."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., led the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance.

At a U.S. base outside Baqouba, Sgt. Jesse Jones, 24, of Olympia, Wash., spent Independence Day by taking a shower and getting a haircut. His platoon was on break before heading back to fighting in Baqouba.

"Today I'm just basically relaxing and refitting, getting ready to go back into the city," he said. "As much as I want to be home, I don't regret being here. This is a good place to celebrate the Fourth of July. Not only are we celebrating independence, we're fighting for independence, too."