Two men, different lands, different circumstances, same goal: Freedom
November 17, 2008
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." - President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Ft. Irwin, Calif. - Spc. Sebit S. Deng (31) of Southern Sudan, Africa and Spc. Laith Y. Rofail (39), who is a native of Baghdad, Iraq have lived separate lives in two very different countries.
Yet, they share two common traits; the first is living nearly three decades of their lives in countries torn apart by terrorism, war and violence. The second is the path they chose that led them to the two things they have always been in search of, "freedom and prosperity."
Sebit and Rofail are U.S. Soldiers now. They are attending advanced individual training (AIT) at Ft. Jackson S.C., as linguists, they are supporting 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division by translating the Arabic language while they conduct the training. However for these two Soldiers living and breathing the free air of America is nowhere near the tip of the Iceberg.
"I am a Soldier in the worlds most powerful army, I have honor, I am given respect, I am taken care of, as well as my family too," said Deng. "What else do I need'"
"I have seen first hand the good-heart of the American Soldier, how they always do their best, and how they have changed the lives of the Iraqi people and the government, for the better," said Rofail. "All of my dreams will come true. The Army has afforded me opportunities and experiences I have never had. "
For Deng growing up in Sudan, Africa's largest country was scarier than anyone should care to imagine. The country has been involved in a civil war between the Muslim-Northern Sudan, and the African Christian-Southern Sudan for the better part of forty years, Deng says.
"This war has claimed over two million lives in the name of religion, race, and slavery, for what' Groups from the north would come to our village at night, cordon the entire village, no one in and no one out. They would call us all out of our homes and separate us; men over here, children here, females there. They would then (proceed) to rape, kill, and beat us just because we are different, we think different and we believe different," said Deng.
So, at age 25, Deng makes for his escape across the river into Cairo, Egypt to the United Nations consulate, where he becomes a refugee from the Sudan.
"If they catch you trying to escape they will kill you," Deng says. But, it was worth that chance... and look at what, and where chance has led me," he added.
For Rofail, life was similar yet very different as his oppressor was not a sectarian group, but a dictator bent on total domination of the people of all Arabic nations, he says.
"Sadaam Hussein (came to power) in late 1979, and by 1980 we were in an eight year war with Iran; that is when we saw the major escalation of terror attacks in Iraq. The same things you see today when you turn on your T.V. news, they were happening then, just with different responsible parties," he added.
Rofail and his family would prosper through the Sadaam era. Rofail would become a dentist with a respectable practice in a building in downtown Baghdad, and his brother would become a plastic surgeon. However in early 2007 Rofail's brother's life would be threatened by a terrorist organization and the family decided to flee to Jordan. The main cause for this incident in Rofail's opinion is the fact he and his family are Christian.
"You have to understand it is not just Christians, it is what they call 'AL Kufair' (non-believer), and everyone that does not believe as they believe is 'without God.' They believe in something dangerous, they believe in one another and they believe they will prevail, and if we do not stand up to them, they will," he added.
Terrorism for the western world is a relatively new idea as the acts of September 11, would be the first act of terrorism many Americans had seen or been affected by.
However, for other regions of the world, such as Sudan and Iraq, the violence and destruction of 9/11 are common place everyday activities.
"Terrorists have one goal; they believe in mass killings, bombing buildings, car bombs, suicide bombs, it doesn't matter the more they kill the better. 65 people a day die from terrorist attacks in Iraq and as long as we (Iraqis) continue to fear them and accept their actions we will never have peace," said Rofail.
"One person can blow himself up and kill a hundred, I know this because I grew up watching this in the Sudan," Deng said. "Terrorism is real, 9/11 is real and we need to get the ones that are responsible."
Coming to the 'land of the free and the home of the brave' has definitely given both of these men a bit of perspective on this world as well as the current war in Iraq, and their view may surprise you.
"This war is needed; the USA is our (Iraqis) last hope, our only choice as free people is to unite and fight terrorism, if the American people allow them to, terrorism will destroy the US. It is what they have done in Iraq, and it will be no different in the United States," Rofail says.
"I am willing to give up everything for this country, my life... everything," Deng said. "We as a nation fight for the freedom of innocent people in Iraq and around the world. I am proud to be a part of it, and will continue to try to give back what has been given to me."