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Servicemembers Gain U.S. Citizenship in Iraq Ceremony

By Spc. Amanda J. Solitario, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2007 – He has proudly called himself an American soldier for more than a year, and now he can finally call himself a citizen of the country he serves.

Army Spc. Sherif Z. Shalaby, a translator aide with the 15th Sustainment Brigade, was one of the more than 85 servicemembers to gain their U.S. citizenship during a Feb. 11 naturalization neremony here.

Shalaby said words can’t describe the wealth of pride and excitement he felt as he raised his hand to take the oath of allegiance.

"It was really a great moment," the Egyptian native said. "I thought, 'You can't get back a moment like this.'"

Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commanding general of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), addressed the new American citizens.

"This is a defining moment in your life," he said. "America is now more than your home. America is your country."

Terry said that as citizens, the servicemembers now have certain responsibilities they should take very seriously. Some of those include voting, performing jury duty and exercising their right to practice their religion.

The U.S. Constitution provides those rights, and is the reason America is different from any other country, Terry said.

"Becoming an American has nothing to do with birth or ancestry," he said to the servicemembers. "That is because America is an idea, not a race."

Terry commended the servicemembers on their citizenship as well as their military service. Shalaby was personally congratulated by his noncommissioned officer in charge, who escorted him from Camp Taji to Anaconda for the ceremony.

"When I was naturalized, it was an appreciation of what I have been doing in the Army," Shalaby said.

His new citizenship will open many doors outside the military, Shalaby noted, but he said it has made him consider staying in the military long after his contract is up.

"I cannot deny that what happened this morning gave me a good motivation to stay in the Army and make it a career," he said.

Army regulations requires soldiers to be U.S. citizens to remain in the military past the eight-year point of their service.

(Army Spc. Amanda J. Solitario is assigned to 13th Sustainment Command Public Affairs.)

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