War, Re-enlistment, and a Birthday
November 26, 2007
BAGHDAD (Multi-National Force - Iraq, Nov. 26, 2007) -The decision to join the military at any point in time demonstrates a willingness to serve. The decision to remain in the military in wartime, faced with the reality of multiple deployments, has deeper implications.
In the Al Faw palace, one of Saddam Hussein's former homes, 280 Soldiers and one Sailor re-enlisted Nov. 21. The palace was seized by the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga., in 2003, and on the division's 90th birthday Soldiers under its command renewed their commitment to the Army and the war on terror.
When Sgt. Patricia Daniels, S-1, Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Support Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, re-enlisted during Operation Iraqi Freedom III, she didn't know the significance of the date at first.
"Last time I was in Iraq, OIF III, I re-enlisted on the 21st of November, not realizing it was the 3rd ID birthday," she said.
This year, Daniels' choice to recommit to the Army on the division's 90th birthday was intentional. Daniels is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, again under the command of the Multi-National Division - Center.
Still, Daniels, a native of Miami, said the decision is bittersweet. While she loves her job, the separation from her husband and four children is hard.
"I like the camaraderie, I like the teamwork," she said of the Army. "I don't like to deploy every other year."
This year, the ceremony fell the day before Thanksgiving, Daniels will have home on her mind. She said Thanksgiving trumps Christmas in her family, and she has begged her husband and children to carry on the elaborate food preparation and holiday traditions in her stead.
Despite the sacrificed holiday, her conviction to serve remains unshaken.
"I'm re-enlisting for the needs of the Army," she said.
The re-enlistment ceremony was officiated by the Multi-National Division Center commanding general, Gen. David Petraeus.
"Re-enlisting Soldiers is one of my favorite duties, one of the greatest honors I think any of us can perform. And it is a true honor to be with you to re-enlist 281 of you at last count, and that does include a 'Sailor of One.'"
Spc. Heidi McNeely, also with S-1, HHSC, STB, 3rd Inf. Div., re-enlisted in July. Her husband, food service specialist John McNeely, re-enlisted in a private ceremony last week.
On Nov. 21, John also joined other MND-C Soldiers and affirmed his commitment.
Husband and wife, both from New Orleans, joined the Army for similar reasons.
"The biggest motivation was stability," McNeely said. "That's what keeps me and him going."
But being deployed simultaneously is a mixed blessing for the couple.
"It's nice... comforting," McNeely said. "But kind of scary because we have two kids."
John's parents are taking care of the children while mom and dad are deployed. Their oldest daughter, 8 years old, is aware enough to wonder where her parents are and why they went away. McNeely said she gave her children a simple explanation.
"I told them (it's) because there were people who needed help from us," McNeely explained. "I didn't go any further than that. She didn't question it. The only thing she questioned was if something was going to happen to me.
"I told her that God gave her to me," McNeely continued. "I'm not done taking care of her yet."
Whatever the motivation to re-enlist - both Daniels and McNeely say options for school are a factor for their decision - Soldiers throughout the Army are choosing to stay in.
Falling a day before Thanksgiving and on the day of the 3rd Inf. Div.'s birthday, the ceremony comes as a poignant reminder of the tradition and duty that lie at the heart of MND-C Soldiers' choice to serve their country.
"I don't know where this division, this great division, will be when it celebrates one century of service in 2017," Gen. Petraeus said. "But I can guarantee you that wherever it is, future Dog Face Soldiers will celebrate the courageous contributions that each of you is making in Iraq today. They will proudly look at each of you the same way you look back at some of your predecessors."