One Sailor, 280 Soldiers Re-enlist Together in Iraq
By Renanah Miles
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Nov. 27, 2007 Two hundred eighty soldiers and one sailor re-enlisted earlier this month in the Al Faw palace, one of Saddam Hussein’s former homes.
The palace was seized by 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga., in 2003. On the division’s 90th birthday Nov. 21, soldiers under its command renewed their commitment to the Army and the war on terror.
When Sgt. Patricia Daniels, of Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Support Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, re-enlisted during Operation Iraqi Freedom III, she didn’t know the significance of the date at first. “Last time I was in Iraq, … I re-enlisted on the 21st of November, not realizing it was the 3rd ID birthday,” she said.
This year, Daniels’ choice to recommit to the Army on the division’s 90th birthday was intentional. Daniels is deployed to Baghdad again, under the command of the Multi-National Division Center. Still, Daniels, a native of Miami, said the decision is bittersweet. While she loves her job, said, the separation from her husband and four children is hard.
“I like the camaraderie, I like the teamwork,” she said of the Army. “I don’t like to deploy every other year.”
This year, as the ceremony fell the day before Thanksgiving, Daniels had home on her mind. She said Thanksgiving trumps Christmas in her family, and she begged her husband and children to carry on the elaborate food preparation and holiday traditions in her stead.
Despite the sacrificed holiday, her conviction to serve remains unshaken. “I’m re-enlisting for the needs of the Army,” she said.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Division Iraq, officiated over the ceremony.
“Re-enlisting soldiers is one of my favorite duties, one of the greatest honors I think any of us can perform,” the general said.
“And it is a true honor to be with you to re-enlist 281 of you at last count, and that does include a ‘Sailor of One,’” Petraeus said in a play on the Army motto.
Spc. Heidi McNeely, also with Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, re-enlisted in July. Her husband, food service specialist John McNeely, re-enlisted in a private ceremony last week.
On Nov. 21, John also joined other Multinational Division Center soldiers and affirmed his commitment. Husband and wife, both from New Orleans, joined the Army for similar reasons. “The biggest motivation was stability,” McNeely said. “That’s what keeps me and him going.”
But being deployed simultaneously is a mixed blessing for the couple. “It’s nice, … comforting,” McNeely said. “But kind of scary because we have two kids.”
John’s parents are taking care of the children while mom and dad are deployed. Their oldest daughter, 8 years old, is aware enough to wonder where her parents are and why they went away. McNeely said she gave her children a simple explanation. “I told them (it’s) because there were people who needed help from us,” McNeely explained. “I didn’t go any further than that. She didn’t question it. The only thing she questioned was if something was going to happen to me.
“I told her that God gave her to me,” McNeely continued. “I’m not done taking care of her yet.”
Both Daniels and McNeely say options for school are a factor in their decision.
Falling a day before Thanksgiving and on the day of the 3rd Infantry Division’s birthday, the ceremony came as a poignant reminder of the tradition and duty that lie at the heart of soldiers’ choice to serve their country.
“I don’t know where this division, this great division, will be when it celebrates one century of service in 2017,” Petraeus said. “But I can guarantee you that wherever it is, future ‘Dog Face Soldiers’ will celebrate the courageous contributions that each of you is making in Iraq today. They will proudly look at each of you the same way you look back at some of your predecessors.”
(Renanah Miles is assigned to Multinational Division Center.)