Thanks to the pool reporter traveling with Vice President Biden we have a more colorful, emotional accounting of the swearing in ceremony of 237 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who became citizens of the United States on the 4th of July while stationed in Iraq. While most of these men and women were from Mexico and the Phillipines, there were 12 Iraqis who joined our ranks as citizens.
The ceremony was the largest naturalization ceremony held in Iraq and was held in the rotunda of the Aw Faw Palace, one of Saddam's more luxurious palaces. Soldiers looked down from three balconies to view the ceremony. The chandelier that provided the lighting for the service was described as a sight to behold with a giant sparkling centerpiece surrounded by 16 smaller chandeliers dangling from an ornate painted ceiling.
Soldiers dressed in camouflage sat on folding chairs in the center of the room with their weapons stored beneath their chairs. They were encircled by six black columns possibly of marble, granite or onyx.
Vice President Biden declared his pride in being an American and said that caring for our troops abroad and at home is the only "sacred obligation" the United States has. Biden mentioned our diversity as a country and said that it is this diversity that makes America what it is.
General Odierno's remarks, however, tug at the heartstrings on the day we celebrate our nation's independence.
He said he could not think of a better day to naturalize American citizens than July 4, or a better place to do it than Iraq. General Odierno quoted the Statue of Liberty’s famous phrase, “give me your tired your poor,’’ and added,
“...to be honest I’m not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I'm having a hard time because I don’t see them in terms of tired, poor or huddled.” If had to write an inscription, he added, “I would say give me your best your brightest and your bravest. Give me your warriors your heroes who will enhance our great nation and strive to keep her free."
That's a 4th of July ceremony to remember.