Imigrants from opposite sides of war-torn country work, become U.S. citizens together
March 13, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - The two men -- one a Christian from the south, the other a Muslim from the north -- have nothing against each other, despite the past which tore their homeland of Sudan apart for more than 20 years during a civil war.
Today they are deployed together in Iraq with the U.S. Army, where they work with the same unit as interpreters. Despite Sudan's violent, the two men share a bright future - both became naturalized U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, March 3.
"I love my job, and I love my new country," said Spc. Marlesh Mbory, an assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. "I'm grateful to be American."
Now married with two children, Mbory moved to the United States in 2003 and settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, where thousands of former southern Sudanese citizens call home. However, his path was far from easy.
At the age of 18, Mbory's step brother and uncle were killed in the second Sudanese Civil War. He fled from Sudan to the Congo where he lived for several months, and then to the Central African Republic for five years before finally immigrating to the U.S.
Mbory learned the French, Swahili, Arabic, Nigala, Sango and Moro languages in Africa. Upon arriving to America, Mbory's 8-year-old daughter Lidia helped him learn English in Nebraska. He hesitated joining the U.S. Army because he didn't want to leave Grace, his then-pregnant wife, alone at home. She persuaded him to go, and Munyo, their son, was born when Mbory was in initial entry training.
"I want to see the world peaceful in the future - that is my hope," he said.
Mbory's father, four brothers, and two sisters are still in Sudan; he is thinking of returning to visit them one day. After this deployment, he plans to work as a recruiter in Lincoln, to tell other Sudanese there of the positive advantages of joining the U.S. Army.
"I moved to the U.S. for freedom, for better opportunities, for a better life," said Spc. Magdi Ahmed, assigned to the same unit. "Joining the Army gave me the opportunity to fix things that I saw with my eyes, but I couldn't do anything about."
Ahmed's parents were from Sudan, but he was born in Saudi Arabia. After working at a railway station for nearly 20 years, Ahmed's father was forcibly retired by the government and replaced by an employee who received less pay.
The family moved to Dongla, the capital of northern Sudan, where they lived for six years during the war. Although his parents were Sudanese, they were considered foreigners because they had lived in Saudi Arabia.
"I didn't feel like an equal in Saudi Arabia or in Sudan," he says. Even though he had Sudanese citizenship and was a resident there, he had to pay more for college, according to Ahmed, because he was born in Saudi Arabia, a rich country.
The college faculty intentionally gave him failing grades, because he didn't agree with the government, according to Ahmed. In Sudan, although he suffered negative experiences - unfairness, discrimination, and corruption - Ahmed thinks of these things as positive now because they prepared him for moving to the United States.
"The U.S. was the only place you could go for justice. I couldn't get justice from my own country. The struggle I felt in Saudi Arabia and in Sudan made me feel like the U.S. would be a better place to live," said Ahmed.
Ahmed moved back to Saudi Arabia in 2005, and immigrated to the U.S. one year later. In Wisconsin a friend of his uncle's helped Ahmed start a new life, and after one month, he had his own apartment and job.
Ahmed's parents, five brothers and one sister live in Saudi Arabia, and other relatives of his still live in Sudan, where his uncle died during the war.
Southern Sudan will become a separate country in 2011, and Mbory adds, "God is watching."
Ten of the 251 Soldiers who became naturalized U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, March 3, serve with the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. They are:
Aca,!Ac Spc. Marlesh Mbory, interpreter/translator, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
Aca,!Ac Spc. Magdi Ahmed, interpreter/translator, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Dennis Berrei David, cannon crew member, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Angel Climaco, supply specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Leiry Elisa Dominguez Vargas, automated logistics specialist, D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Alfredo Floresreyes, team leader, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Allan Macaraeg, rifleman, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Delfino Martinez, cannon crew member, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery
Aca,!Ac Spc. Dana Noori, interpreter, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion
Aca,!Ac Spc. Michael Eluang, cavalry scout, 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment