Obama speaks on contributions of naturalized Soldiers
May 11, 2011
EL PASO, Texas (Army News Service, May 11, 2011) -- President Barack Obama received a brief welcome from Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of Fort Bliss, when the commander-in-chief landed at Biggs Army Airfield on his way to deliver an address in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011.
The president spoke about immigration issues and servicemember contributions at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso. Located just north of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, El Paso is a border city that surrounds Fort Bliss - one of the fastest growing military posts in the U.S. and the future home of the 1st Armored Division.
Obama's address caught the attention of Sgt. 1st Class Howard Baity assigned to 5th Armored Brigade, who recently returned from Iraq after a one-year deployment. His wife and two children remained in El Paso while he was deployed. Baity said he agreed with the president's remarks that El Paso as one of the safest cities in the country.
"And also, despite a lot of breathless reports that have tagged places like El Paso as dangerous - violent crime in southwest border counties has dropped by a third," said Obama. "El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation."
Obama also brought immigration to the forefront and highlighted the contributions of naturalized servicemembers by pointing out their dedication to the nation.
"Nothing can be more inspiring," said Obama. "Even though they were not yet citizens when they joined our military, these men and women signed up to serve."
Obama said there are many examples of servicemembers who have achieved the American dream.
"That's the promise of this country, that anyone can write the next chapter in our story," he said. "It doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn't matter what faith you worship, what matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded."
Maj. Haileyesus Bairu, the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 32nd Army, Air and Missile Defense Command, entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, two months after he became a naturalized citizen in 1998.
"It is the ideal American dream," said Bairu. "One thing America has a near monopoly on, is this idea you can be born an immigrant in a third world country and with hard work you could work your way up."
An Ethiopian immigrant, Bairu, the son of a cattle herder, said he is grateful for the opportunity to serve in the world's greatest Army.
"I think one of the greatest things about the United States Army - if you really think about it - is here I am an immigrant, born in a third-world country, leading America's sons and daughters as a commissioned officer," he said.