Leaving his past behind, Soldier begins new life as U.S. citizen
Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., (left) commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, shakes the hand of Pfc. Daut Zenuni, Nov. 11, after Zenuni received his U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony in Baghdad. Zenuni, of Fort Hood's 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, came to the United States from Gjakova, Kosovo, when he was 9 to escape the violence of the Kosovo Conflict.

BAGHDAD -- The city of Gjakova, in western Kosovo, suffered severe physical damage as scores of citizens were killed at the height of the Kosovo Conflict. For one young boy and his family, staying in the war-torn country was not an option.

Spc. Daut Zenuni was born March 25, 1988, in Gjakova, Kosovo. The oldest of three children, Zenuni lived in Gjakova until he was nine. In those nine years, Zenuni and his family never called one place "home" for too long; the violence surrounding them would not give the family that opportunity.

"I have always known war and, because of it, we moved constantly," he said. "We lived in the hills, trying to find safety and cover."

Zenuni's mother, younger sister, brother and uncle were always by his side.

"My uncle was was the only one of us who had a weapon," he said. "One day he went out, and we never saw him again," he said.

Not giving up, Zenuni and his family continued on, seeking refuge in Macedonia, Greece, before heading to Switzerland. It was there that the family decided to come to the United States.

Zenuni spoke no English when he arrived in West Palm Beach, Fla., but after six months he learned the basics, and enrolled in the fourth grade. The months that followed would require patience, as the family adjusted to their new life in America.

"It was kind of weird coming (to America)," he said. "I was use to fighting and working for everything I had in Kosovo. Regardless, I always give 110 percent of myself"

Zenuni continued to carry that fighting spirit with him, graduating from high school and enlisting in the U.S. Army shortly after.

"Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to join the military," he said. "I joined the Army not only because I wanted to join, but I felt that I had something to give back after how much the United States has helped my country."

With a family tradition of military service spanning back to the years of World War I, Zenuni knew he would follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father who both served as artillery men.

"I always wanted to do something that will just take almost everything you got out of you, and artillery is the best choice," he said.

It was that choice that sent Zenuni to Fort Sill, Okla., for training and on to his first duty assignment at Camp Hovey, Korea. After his one-year tour, Zenuni requested to go to Fort Hood, Texas, where he is currently assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

It was when 1st Cav. Div. deployed in January that Zenuni was afforded the opportunity to apply for permanent citizenship in the U.S. Eager to get what he said he has earned, Zenuni submitted a packet and was put through an interview process.

Soon he found himself patiently waiting, along with nearly 160 other Soldiers and Marines, for his named to be called.

"Daut Zenuni," the announcer called. Zenuni stood proudly and stepped forward.

With that, Zenuni accepted his citizenship on Nov. 11. Typically known as an American holiday to honor military veterans, Zenuni will now be among those who have served their country proudly.

"I wouldn't want my citizenship any other way than while I'm in the service," he said. "I am proud of serving the United States through the military. My love for a country that I proudly call my own can't be shown in any other way than by serving in a way that I will never forget."

Zenuni will return to Fort Hood, Texas, in the early part of 2010 after serving a 13-month tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Page last updated Thu November 12th, 2009 at 02:42