Almost 200 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq celebrated Tuesday’s elections in a special way and were sworn in as U.S. citizens.
But the 186 men and women — who hail from 60 different countries — won’t get to cast that first ballot for Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, at least not this year. They became citizens too late to vote in Tuesday’s presidential election.
Dressed in fatigues and standing under a giant U.S. flag, the troops took their citizenship oath at a ceremony in a domed marble hall at Saddam’s old Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport.
“Diverse as your backgrounds may be, you all now have one thing in common: you are all Americans,” the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said. “You represent the very best of all that our nation stands for: freedom, opportunity, equality and service.”
Each of the soldiers shook hands with Gen. Odierno and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker before receiving a citizenship certificate and a folded U.S. flag.
The soldiers say they relish the chance to cast their ballot in the U.S., even if they missed out on Tuesday’s election.
“I’m excited to be able to vote,” said Spc. Ruth McKoy, from the 62nd Quartermaster Company, 553rd Sustainment Brigade.
“If something good comes out of a future election, I can say I had something to do with that. It’s like my voice is being heard now,” said McKoy, who was born in the West Indies, Jamaica and joined the Army in December 2002.
Spc. Rasha Hennessy, from the 1st Higher Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was born in Baghdad not far from where she took her oath.
“Honestly, I can’t even think of how blessed I am to have this privilege,” she said. “It’s a great thing.”
Source: AP News