BAGHDAD – How are you spending your 4th of July holiday? While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.
Petraeus, reiterating earlier remarks made by Command Sergeant Major Hill, said that the unprecedented ceremony sends a “message to friend and foe alike.” He told those assembled that it is “impossible to calculate the value of what you are giving to our country . . . For no bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you makes as a custodian of our nation’s defenses.”
Among those in attendance were service members from the more than two dozen Allies serving with MNF-I. Along with their American counterparts, each appeared in awe of the sacrifice of these incredible men and women. Each of the reenlistees knows full well the costs of war, and yet, they chose to stand with their units, their mission, and each other. It was as humbling an experience as I have ever witnessed. On this 4th of July, while you celebrate around grills and coolers all across America, keep in mind the 1,215 who allow us that privilege.