1,215 Troops Re-enlist In Iraq
Wednesday - August 13, 2008
It was quite a scene in Iraq- one that you can see on YouTube - 1,215 men and women of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force taking the oath of re-enlistment - their right hands held up in solemnity, repeating in perfect unison in a tone of strong, unequivocal commitment.
The ornate marble walls and towering columns in the grand rotunda of a former Saddamera palace magnified and echoed their vows. They came from every state in the union on this Fourth of July, the 232nd birthday of the country to which they were pledging their blood and perhaps their lives in this largest single re-enlistment ceremony in the history of America’s military.
The ceremony was conducted by Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of Multi National Forces Iraq, whose introduction was followed by sustained, almost affectionate standing applause. He first introduced the re-enlistees by their military unit, to which each group responded loud and clear in unison with their unit motto. The U.S. Marines, who do not identify themselves by separate units, but only as Marines, he saved for last. Their resounding chorus, of course: “Hoo-ruh!”
The general continued; “You are following in the footsteps of millions of Americans before you for 232 years, and will carry on a tradition of sacrifice, commitment, professionalism and skill.”
Indeed, to re-enlist in an active combat zone - perhaps even on a second or third tour - where certainly many of those 1,215 troops within only the week before had fired their weapons to kill and had experienced blood and seen death - a far cry from a peaceful ceremony aboard the Arizona Memorial with the warm trades wafting through, or in the serene history of Palm Circle at Fort Shafter, or the afternoon shadows of K-Bay’s Iwo Jima Memorial with the Koolau cliffs across the water. No illusions in this one.
Interviews revealed their reasons for re-enlisting were many and personal. Yes, some felt the risks were more than offset by the monetary bonus, money to be used for growing families, dream vacations with loved ones upon returning, or to pay for continuing education. Some just felt like they had really found a home in the military and couldn’t envision their lives otherwise. Others just didn’t want to leave their friends, revealing the strength of bonds formed in the crucible of shared danger, adversity and fear. Many just liked being a part of something greater than themselves, sharing the pride of winning a war that many of the talking heads at CNN and in Congress had already declared lost. And many cited the deep satisfaction of helping the people of Iraq shake off the chains of a cruel dictator to taste the new fruits of a free and nearly democratic society.
And the beautiful thing is, there are no losers. Even for those men and women whose aspirations may not be achieved in the military and choose to leave, their lives will have been changed for the better. Whatever path they may take, they will always have the satisfaction and pride that they had the courage to step up when their nation needed them, and to have been a part of the major events of their generation. They will have invested a piece of their lives in the defense of their country and will always care more about who leads it, how their taxes are spent and how our military is used. And others who didn’t serve might silently envy them.
Sometime in a crowded room, simply ask, “Will all the veterans please stand up; let us see who you are.” Not one ever hangs back. All are quick to stand - straight and proud. To see the awesome video of this historical event on YouTube, Google “mass reenlistment ceremony in Iraq.”
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