Biden, Odierno preside over naturalization ceremony in Iraq
July 7, 2009
WASHINGTON (July 6, 2009) -- Vice President Joe Biden and Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, presided over a July 4 naturalization ceremony in which 237 servicemembers deployed to Iraq became American citizens.
"You are the reason America is strong," Biden told the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who hailed from 59 countries, including Iraq, during the ceremony in the rotunda of former dictator Saddam Hussein's Al-Faw palace. "You are the source of our freedom - you and all who come before you."
Biden said he could think of no greater show of commitment than to serve thousands of miles away from one's adopted home, in harm's way, before becoming a citizen. He noted the sacrifices the troops have made and will continue to make during their deployment.
"Here in Iraq, you have done your country, and this country, proud," Biden told the group, citing progress, including the movement of U.S. combat troops from the cities before the June 30 deadline. "You know better than I that there is still a lot of hard work left to do," Biden conceded, promising to ensure deployed troops have "every single thing" they need to carry the mission forward.
Biden said the nature of the mission will change as Iraqis take on increasing responsibility and the United States ultimately leaves Iraq. "Next summer, our combat troops will leave Iraq itself, and we will be on track to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011," he said.
Odierno praised the newest U.S. citizens for the role they have played in building Iraq's future. Pointing to their diversity, he called them "an example to the Iraqis of a country that welcomes men and women from everywhere."
Looking out over the group, Odierno said he'd be hard-pressed to describe them by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which begins, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses."
"To be honest, I'm not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I'm having a hard time because I don't see them in terms of tired, poor or huddled," he said.
"If I had to write a description of the soon-to-be citizens in this rotunda," the general continued, "I would say, 'Give me your brightest and your bravest. Give me your warriors and your heroes who will enhance our great nation and strive to keep her safe.'"