Proud to Be an American
It’s not uncommon for Army units to have Soldiers striving to earn their United States citizenship. After all, the Army has made earning citizenship a recruiting incentive for enlistment.
Eight Soldiers from 40th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, are earning their United States citizenship while deployed in Iraq. The Soldiers differ in age, gender, and job but their drive to become U.S. citizens unites them. All see the U.S. as an opportunity for something better, and are willing to fight and die for the right to call it home.
Specialist Tarikawe Daniel’s story is just one of several equally powerful stories of a quest for U.S. citizenship.
“I’ll be proud to be an American and all the opportunities that it will offer,” said Daniel, from Arlington, Va., a Combat Engineer in Company C, 40th Engineer Bn. “It will allow my children to have the chance to grow up in a place like America with so many opportunities.”
Daniel was born on the Horn of Africa in Ethiopia. This was the country for which Bob Geldof organized the rock concert Live Aid in 1985 to raise money for relief due to a devastating famine which shocked the world. Ethiopia was in the midst of a decade long civil war which had ravaged the country and brought it to the brink of total disaster. A by-product of the war was a crushing famine and resulting starvation. This was the world Daniel was born to in 1982.
Daniel lived in the capital city of Addis Ababa where the country’s dictator was fighting forces from Eritria.
“The Tigre tribe of Eritria was attacking Ababa because they wanted to overthrow the government of Ethiopia. They believed their tribe was being discriminated against by the ruler,” Daniel said. “I remember artillery shells going off in the middle of the city. It scared me and my mother and twin sister”¦ we would hide underneath trees for protection.”
His father was head of the agriculture department and left the country in fear for his life because he had worked for the Ethiopian government. He believed there was no hope in Ethiopia, and wanted a better life and opportunities for his family.
He left in 1986 for another country in Africa.
“My family doesn’t know where he went in Africa, the next time we heard from him is when he was in England,” he added.
His father was approved as a political refugee in England, where he lived for a short time with relatives in London. In 1991, Daniel left with his twin sister and mother for England, but his father was already in America. The family stayed in London less than a year, living with an aunt in London, before immigrating to the U.S.
Daniel’s father was a cab driver in Washington, D.C. and the family lived there for several years.
“There is a large Ethiopian population in D.C., that helped my father out,” said Daniel. He also had a dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. He earned his citizenship through hard work and determination, character traits Daniel remembered as he grew up.
Daniel’s father told him that education was a vital component to becoming successful in the U.S. so he moved the family to Arlington, Va. because he believed the school system was better than in D.C.
In Arlington, Daniel attended public schools and graduated from Yorktown High School in 2002, but had not yet obtained his citizenship.
“I didn’t have time to work on getting my citizenship because I was not a green card holder for five years,” said Daniel.
In 2003, at the age of 22, Daniel joined the U.S. Army.
“During that time I struggled to please my father. He wanted me to go to college but I was not a good student, I had a “˜C’ average. I spent a lot of time working to help support the family and have money for myself. The classroom environment was never my place.”
One day, Daniel’s father asked him what he was going to do with his life and he told him he would join the Army. His father scoffed, telling him he couldn’t make it.
“My guidance counselor in high school also told me I couldn’t make it in the Army. I wanted to prove them both wrong,” he said.
Daniel enlisted and became a combat engineer. His first assignment was Fort Irwin, Ca. Soon after arriving, Daniel deployed to Iraq in 2004.
“We helped set up the first elections that year,” he said, noting that he was a driver. “I always liked going outside the wire. I found purpose there and I was happy with my squad leader because he always congratulated me on my performance.”
After his tour and return to Fort Irwin, he changed duty stations and was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Div. in Korea for a one-year tour where he met the woman who would become his fiancÃ©.
After his tour of duty he was assigned to the 40th Engineer Bn., 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div.
In April, Daniel’s unit deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Although Daniel was a proud and successful member of the Army, something was missing in his life – becoming a U.S. citizen. And, because of an executive order signed by President George W. Bush, non-citizens on active duty are allowed to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to complete a three-year tour of duty. Daniel’s path to citizenship was on the fast track, if he could complete the necessary paperwork.
A combat engineer’s typical day on a route clearance mission is more than 12 hours long, and full of mentally and physically exhausting work. But Daniel was bound and determined to earn his citizenship once and for all, and filed all the necessary documents.
“The Army has given me so many opportunities and has always taken care of me,” said Daniel. “All I have left to receive my citizenship is one interview and the swearing in. I consider myself an American. I don’t feel like I am not a citizen, but having that citizenship will allow me to vote.”
By Pfc. Evan Loyd
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
Table of contents for America's African Heroes
- An American Soldier Returns Home
- Sierra Leone native joins Air Force
- Gambian Leads By Example
- From Sudan to Iraq
- Nigerian Native Is Patriotic American
- Proud to Be an American
- Sudanese Refugee Is US Army Soldier
- Our Best: Sgt. 1st Class Dedraf Blash
- Immigrants From Opposite Sides of War-torn Country Become Citizens Together
- Our Best: Staff Sgt. Happiness Aghedo
- Back to Africa – the Land of Opportunity
- Our Best – Staff Sgt. Muna Nur
- From African refugee to US soldier
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Immigration, Military. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.