Why we serve in the United states Military

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 I was totally dismayed when I read the news titled: “Nigerians Join the US Army” published in the Daily Sun of Thursday 20th March, 2007. While going through the news item, I was thinking that I have some news that will enrich my knowledge more than what I know about the US Military. However, I was disappointed that the writer was writing out of stark ignorance of what he was talking about. The report had it that: “Hundreds of Nigerians, who joined the American Army as a quick path to citizenship, are now fighting in Iraq as the country marks the fifth anniversary of the unpopular war. “Although Pentagon officials have refused to release the number of those who may have been killed or injured in action, they said those who are fighting in Iraq freely signed up “knowing the risks they face.” “Sources said many of the Nigerian men and women joined as Green Card holders, who wanted to speed up their citizenship status. ‘The U.S Army has a process of fast-tracking the dream of members of the armed forces who wish to become citizens,’ officials stated.” The news item had 11 paragraphs. Only 3 out of the 11 paragraphs talked about the issue of Nigerians joining the US Military while the remaining 8 paragraphs were talking about Iraq war casualties, troop level, al-Qaeda etc.
The report alluded that the reason Nigerians and other immigrants were joining the military was to acquire citizenship or to fast-track their quest for citizenship! I was amazed that some journalists choose to discuss topics or issues which they know little or nothing about. The Sun News came to be respected lately as a responsible News Organization because of good journalists that are in their team, but after reading that piece, I was highly disappointed that they are somehow still tied to the apron-string of junk or soft-sell journalism. It was really unfortunate. I felt better after reading “Nigerians in the US Army: Let Truth Be Told” written by Mr. Francis Kizito Obeya and published in the Nigeriaworld on Tuesday March 25, 2008 and another article on the topic written by Ike Eweama in Nigeriaworld on Wednesday March 26, 2008 and titled: “US Army: Why We Serve”. It was a great rebuttal by these two outstanding Nigerian ambassadors. They both gave a full expose of the US Military by an insider. I do not intend to over-stress the fact that many of us that joined the military have different reasons for volunteering to serve in the world’s greatest military. While I was reading the article of Ike Eweama, the place that touched me was where he was giving an account by a female about why she joined the military. “The prospect of becoming a member of what she considered the most challenging branch motivated Gregg instead of intimidating her. “That’s why I did it. It was the most challenging service,” she recalled. “I was going to join the Army, but I went with the Marines. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it just to show you that I can.”” It touched me because I could hear myself saying those words. I am a former US Marine and I was to have joined the Army National Guard. I called both branches but the Army National Guard was first to respond to me. They took me to take the written test known as ASVAB, but after I successful completed the test, the Marines returned my call, and I joined same day! I did not join the US Marines for the citizenship. I was already few years away to get my citizenship. Moreover, the Army National Guard at the time was not at any risk of going to war.
So if my reason was to secure the citizenship, the question would have been: “Why join the US Marine Corps that is by far tougher and riskier than the Army National Guard, when all the services offer same incentives and benefits? Many people have their own personal reasons for joining the military. Some people have reasons for joining that some critics might call “bizarre”. I have a junior colleague at the time that told us openly that the reason why he joined the US Marines was “to kill people, to kill those bastards that hit the Twin Towers, everyone of them.” He also said that he joined to get a license to kill the bad guys. He said it without batting an eyelid! There are Nigerians that are already US citizens before joining the US Military; there are some that were born here and some that acquired their citizenship long before they joined. In fact, I have a relation that was born here in the eighties before his parents went back with him and his siblings to Nigeria. He came back here after his University and joined the US Army for the MGIB (Montgomery GI Bill) which would enable him to further his education. As a matter of fact, he chose the infantry and did two tours in Iraq as armored tanker. Why infantry? He told me that he love the adventure and the challenges that come with it. It was not for citizenship that he joined. He told me that he saw some Nigerians that even volunteered to go to Iraq! I have another friend that joined after he got his citizenship. He was stationed in Bahrain with his family after the war broke out, he has been on two tours in Iraq, and is currently en route to another accompanied tour (i.e. with his family) in Germany.
How about some Nigerians that joined the US Military as green card holders, secured their US Citizenships but are still serving in the military almost 10 years after getting their citizenships? How do you explain that? Everyone has his own peculiar reason for joining the servive as everone situation is unique and peculiar to him. Many of my relatives never gave me a chance of succeding or even making it out of training. Some told me how they hear about people that ran away from training due to the intensity. That only succeeded in motivating me. There are lots of Nigerians serving our adopted country with pride and distinction. We have some pilots, doctors, lawyers, engineers and every occupational specialty in the military that have Nigerians. Many of us already have our degrees while in Nigeria . I was already a lawyer before I joined. I have met lots of Nigerian professionals in the military and was very proud to be a Nigerian. When I was injured while I was stationed in overseas, and I was in the hospital bed and was still under anesthesia. I heard someone speaking in ‘pidgin English’. As I opened my eyes, behold a Nigeria Navy Doctor! He was assigned to me. In fact, he went and told them to assign me to him, which they did. We have many doctors like him that have been in service for a long time. There are others that have spent more than 20 years in the service and attained the rank of Colonel out of merit. This is quite unlike in Nigeria where you can never get ahead because you are not opportuned to have an Abraham as father. The military offered lots of Nigerians variety of choices and experiences. Many of us as Messrs Eweama and Obeya pointed out could not be accepted in our own military because of the “Nigerian factor”. Back in the days, my immediate older brother who had distinction in the West African School Certificate Examination wanted to join the Nigeria Navy. He was one of the few people in my local government to secure the most sought after form for that year.
So he filled the forms and proceeded to the pre-recruitment test. At the pre-recruitment screening field, everyone was ordered to strip down to his underwear. As they were being examined, they notice some patches of eczema on my brother’s back. Immediately they whipped him all over the body with their “koboko” or horse whips and chased him away from the field. He ran and ran and was only able to retrieve his clothes and one pair of his sneakers! According to him, many others with no sponsors suffered the same fate as him while he saw others that came with big letters from notable people and were excluded from that act of bestiality, and were taken. Another of my brothers secured another form for the Army but gave it to another relative of mine who came begging as if his life depended on that form.
Our relative didn’t make it out of the pre-recruitment screening. I wanted to join the Nigerian Army, but I was told not to even border since I have a flat foot and umbilical hernia in my tummy called “otubo” in ibo. My father teased me that if my elder brother that was bigger and stronger than me with a minor skin disease could not make it as he was chased away with koboko, he said that in my own case they will use a machine gun to chase me away. That is the problem that many Nigerians dying to serve their fatherland are facing. My bossom friend went to the Nigerian Army but suffered lots of humiliations. He even went to the Liberia and Sierra Leone on ECOMOG Peace Keeping Mission and was very lucky to come home alive. When I went for the Marines, I passed the initial physical test with flying colors. I only got reference to see a specialist about my umbilical hernia. I was given a clean bill of health by the specialist as he stated that it was like making a mountain out of a molehill. So I was in! I shed tears that day, at that Iwo Jima Memorial in Parris Island, South Carolina when my Senior Drill Instructor shook my hand for one full minute and gave me the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem (the Marine Corps Emblem)and declared me “United States Marine” with the US National Anthem playing at the background for me and my comrades. What was going through my mind was: “So it is possible that I could be rejected in my own country and here am I. Here am I received with open arms and I am among the world greatest fighting force!” It was an amazing feeling, sort of the rejected stone……. While in the military, I have been all over the world. I have been to many countries in almost all continents.
Prior to that, United States and of course Nigeria were to only country I have been to. The life in the military was the most rewarding to me. I never even had full 8 hours of sleep before I joined and after I left. My post graduate education, my family and the most important thing to me were taken care of. I have never written a check for mortgage/rent, electric, gas, water, and all the basic necessities of life while in the service. All were taken care of. I had my biggest saving in my bank account while in service. I was in the greatest physical shape of my life. I sharpened my leadership and writing skills and I was able to discover lots of things about me which ordinarily I would not have discovered. I was able to discover that “I can’t, means I won’t”. I discovered that the human spirit is very strong and powerful and that you can use your mind to control your body; and appreciate the wise sayings “no pain, no gain” “no venture, no success. I was able to appreciate the fact that some people fail because they are afraid to try, and that everyone has a gift which with a little research would discover what that gift is. The friends and colleagues I made in the military are the greatest friends I have ever made. The pro-family program is awesome. It was a very tough decision for me to make when I decided to move on. My wife did not want us to leave the military because she had the greatest time of her life. T
he camraderie and the security and the sense of community were unmatchable. She wept the day she saw 3 marines in her school for a function. She is still nursing the possibility of going back to the military to serve in one capacity or another in the civilian side. Just like everything in life, there is always a down side. We are not unaware of the risks involved. Life is full of risks. Every profession has its own risks. Drivers, pilots, lawyers, doctors, engineers etc, tell me a profession that has no risk. Even to live in USA is a risk on its own. I have seen Nigerians in the US that were not in the US Military, but have died of gun violence. It a voluntary and you have a right to get out after your contract is over and you also have a choice whether or not to sign another contract. Some myopic minds argued that we only serve the interest of the US government. Some questioned our patriotism. Some were asking me “if Nigeria and US are to be involved in a conflict, who I will fight for”? And all kinds of cynical questions. How about Nigerians that are privileged to serve in the Nigeria military and were sent to Liberia, Sierra Leone and even Sudan. Some died in active service, and some were even unsung. Whose interest did they serve? Didn’t they serve their country with distinction? There is a saying in Ibo: “ebe onye bi ka o na-awachi”-you fix the place that you live.
I have seen some top Nigerian military personnel that came to the US for one kind of training or the other. Why didn’t they do the training in Nigeria instead of coming here to do it? Did you get my drift? So it is silly for anyone to suggest that many Nigerians join the military for the citizenship and that are paying the supreme price for that. Instead of denigrating our service to our adopted country, the news media should do some more research as Mr. Obeya pointed out. They should do a story about the life of Nigerians in the US Military. They should see us as ambassadors of Nigeria. Many people see Nigeria by looking at us and the way and manner we carry ourselves. It always gladdens my heart when I hear people, and there are lots of them; saying that their best friends are Nigerians. The press should see us as helping in no small way to disabuse the minds of the world against Nigerians, who see Nigerians as fraudsters, 419ers and drug peddlers.
CSN: 55102-2008-01-15

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