<b>JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq </b>- To some, becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream that seems just out of reach, but to 156 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines, the goal of naturalization became a reality at Victory Base Complex, Iraq, July 4.

"I cannot think of a better day to naturalize new United States citizens than today," said Gen. Ray Odierno, Commanding General, United States Forces - Iraq, who spoke during the ceremony.
Vice President Joe Biden, who was also at the ceremony, said that the day reminded him of patriotism.

"I can't think of a more stunning example of patriotism, than men and women volunteering to fight for their country," he said. "This Fourth of July weekend, I'm reminded that you have carried the torch of our founding fathers, the one that they lit 234 years ago. You carried it around the world, in this case in a uniform representing a nation that, until now, was not your own."

Sergeant Isaias Medellin, material assessment team sergeant for the 812th Quartermaster Company, 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and native of Los Fresnos, Texas, has carried that torch through 10 years of military service and through three deployments.

"I've been looking forward to this all my life," he said. "Today is a great day for me. I'm happy that I could share it with Family."

That Family is Sgt. Medellin's younger brother Cpl. Noe Medellin, administrative clerk for the 812th QM Co. He attended the ceremony to support his brother's naturalization.

"I am very proud of him," Cpl. Medellin said. "I am very happy that we could be together on this day."

The 156 servicemembers hailed from 56 different countries, said Gen. Odierno, and all of them raised their hand to serve in the military before becoming citizens.

He spoke of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

"I'm not so sure that legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today," he said. "I would say, 'Give me your best, give me your brightest and give me your bravest. Give me your warriors, your heroes who will enhance our great nation and always strive to keep it free.'"
He then spoke of America and how it is a "melting pot" of people.

"Diversity is an integral part of our national culture," he said. "It has been a driving force behind our nation's prosperity throughout the past few centuries. You represent America. You are the key to what makes America strong. You are proof that diversity is our strength and we need your service."

Vice President Biden echoed Gen. Odierno's remarks on freedom and diversity.

"America is that rare place where citizens are not defined by their ethnicity or their religion; not by their nationality, but what they are committed to: ideas and ideals. You represent America and all we stand for: strength, resolve, sacrifice and diversity."

The vice president closed by assuring the newly naturalized servicemen and women that America was committed to them just as much as they were committed to America.

"The United States only has one truly sacred obligation and that is to care for those who we send to war by giving them everything they need and making sure everything they need when they return home is available to them," he said. "Quite simply, we owe you."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16