Editor's note: The following email is being reprinted by permission of the author.
Happy 4th of July to All,
I was recently asked to give you an update on what’s going on over here in Iraq. I am going to give you, what I consider to be, the most patriotic event I have ever witnessed in my 37 years.
Everyone knows the significance of the 4th of July and the importance it has in our country’s history. Well, today I traveled to Camp Victory today to watch 2 of my Soldiers reenlist in a ceremony presided over by General David H. Petraus, Commanding General of the Multinational Forces - Iraq.
When we arrived at Al Faw Palace, which is named for the city that Saddam’s army liberated from the Iranians in 1988, I was in awe of the sight of this spacious palace surrounded by a lake.
Once we walked to the door, I began to notice all the gold lining on the doors and when we got inside there was gold all over the place. All the floors and columns are marble. Even the staircases and banisters are marble. Then, in the middle of the rotunda is a huge chandelier, made of gold. I will save the rest of the palace description for when I get home.
To get back to the reenlistment ceremony, there were nearly 600 Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen that reenlisted today. After arriving for the ceremony and getting a program, I discovered that it was also a naturalization ceremony for some of the same people. There were 161 new American citizens that reenlisted in the armed services and agreed to serve a country that wasn’t even theirs until today!
These men and women raised their right hands and solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They vowed to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over them, and closed their oath with "so help me God." They pledged their lives to defend our great nation. How much more patriotic can you get?
Once the reenlistment concluded, the naturalization ceremony began. There was a video message from the President, followed by an address from the senior member of the Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The candidates stood tall and were led through the Oath of Citizenship. At that moment, those men and women were no longer "aliens", they were American citizens.
The 4th of July is special, but how much more special is it now for those men and women? It’s the day they became citizens and got their freedom. Does anyone else have goose bumps?
To top it all off, Senator John McCain was here and gave the congratulatory remarks to the new citizens.
Despite your political affiliation, I have the utmost respect for this man because of his service record. He graduated from Annapolis (but that doesn’t make him a bad guy), served 23 years as a Naval Officer (again not a bad guy), and he spent 5 ½ years of his life as a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War.
To hear him tell those men and women how much of an honor and privilege it was to be here with them and thank them for their sacrifice was the icing on the cake.
As we all stood in that palace and recited the Pledge of Allegiance with those new citizens, which was led by Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), I could feel the truest and boldest spirit of the reason we celebrate the 4th of July course through me. I could hardly contain myself. As the ceremony closed, the 3ID Band played all 4 service songs and as I sang the Army Song with my comrades, my heart was in my throat.
In closing, all I can say is that if I couldn’t be with my family on this momentous day, I would have rather been no place else than standing in Al Faw Palace celebrating what I would call the most patriotic event I have ever witnessed.
To all of you, I again wish you a Happy 4th of July. Sleep well fine citizens, America’s sons and daughters are keeping watch!
SPENCER W. DAVIS
A Co, 603d ASB, 3 CAB
Camp Striker, Iraq
Davis is an 18-year Army veteran. He and his family have spent the last four years in this area and Davis' wife Rhonda works in Richmond Hill at S and J Bookkeeping. They have two sons, Spencer Huston and Adam.