This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Citizen, New Soldier

            Almost every time you do something new, there’s a side benefit in terms of learning something else along the way. It might have nothing to do with what you were doing, but can be kind of neat to know about when you hadn’t before.
            When our son, Nick, graduated from Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, two weeks ago, there were a number of announcements on the Fort’s website and Facebook page. One of them, which piqued my interest a bit, was that Family Day activities would begin with a naturalization ceremony.
            Several people responded on Facebook, asking if that was something they had to attend, and one of the officers diplomatically responded that while they were certainly welcome to, it was primarily a ceremony for new soldiers who were also becoming U.S. citizens following completion of basic training. As fate would have it, we got an opportunity to meet one of the new soldier-citizens the next day.

The Private from the Middle East

            In a post last week I noted that the basic training graduation is an event the Army tries to promote these days, and there were several thousand people in the stands at Hilton Field for the ceremony. When it’s over, the new soldiers are marched down to the far end of the field, and the families rush on to it to join them. It’s kind of like the fans storming the football field and tearing down the goalposts after a big win.
            That makes for a lot of bodies you have to work through to get to your soldier, but finally we found Nick in the scrum. After hugs, handshakes and greetings, he told us that he had taken the liberty of offering one of his fellow soldiers, whose family wasn’t present, a ride back to the barracks in our car.
            I won’t be giving out the soldier’s name, but the reason he had no family at the ceremony was that he was from one of the countries in the Middle East where we have lately had a considerable presence. The details were a bit sketchy, and we didn’t press for more, but apparently he had been helping U.S. troops in his country as an interpreter, and with things becoming more unstable, it was getting a bit hot for him back there. An offer to join the Army and study languages looked pretty good, so he took it.

Don’t Put Me on Facebook

            We took the two of them to their barracks (they were in the same modular building) so they could get their gear together and get ready to move on to their next posts for advanced training. Nick went with us to Fort Eustis in Newport News, VA; his friend was off to a posting a couple of thousand miles away, but still closer than his home.
            I asked if I could take a picture of the two of them, and Nick’s friend hesitated for a moment, then said it would be OK as long as I didn’t post the photo on Facebook or elsewhere on the Internet. I promised I wouldn’t and took the picture on my phone, but later deleted it. Why take any chances?
            Nick said two or three people in his platoon had become naturalized citizens at the end of basic training. In addition to his friend who rode to the barracks with us, one was from China, and another from Latin America. It would be interesting to know what their stories were, but their presence certainly adds another dimension to America’s modern Army, about which most of us know very little.