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Liberty and justice for all, in due time

by Capt. Tracey Howell-LaPalme
407th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron commander

ALI BASE, Iraq -- "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with..."

On Sept. 16, 1996, I spoke those words along with 3,000 other immigrants. As I cradled my 6-week-old daughter in my left arm, I held up my right hand to be sworn in as one of America's newest citizens. That day was a defining moment in my life.

I had left England six years before to come to the United States, like millions of immigrants before me, in the hope of seeking independence and opportunities that, because of my "class," I could scarcely hope for in my native country.

I had always felt the pull of military service calling to me. But it wasn't until I came to America that I knew this was where I belonged.

I was finally home.

The United States was a country born out of repression that took patriots from our nation -- ordinary men and women -- and asked them to give of themselves completely and unselfishly to gain our country's liberty.

Now, nine years later, I find myself serving beside the men and women of Ali Base, in a country that has suffered for many years and is at the beginning an unfamiliar journey, a journey toward a new and free Iraq.

Like our nation's forefathers, the men and women of Iraq struggle bravely for democracy. And just as America needed help during its Revolutionary War from its "coalition partners," so, too, does Iraq.

Iraqis need our help to bring stability to their country while they draft a constitution and rebuild their economy. The leaders of their fledgling government, under a daily threat of death, fight to achieve a unified Iraq that reflects the will of the Iraqi people. A country where human rights are valued and political differences are respected.

So let us not forget that the freedoms that we enjoy today were not gained in one day -- just as the freedoms of the Iraqi people will take many years to achieve.

As Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafar told the United Nations, "The children of Iraq are just like yours -- they don't want to lose their fathers and turn to orphans. The women of Iraq are just like yours -- they don't want to lose their husbands and turn to widows."

No one said this struggle was going to be easy. We know from experience that it's not. But one thing's for sure, every single one of us here today, through our love and devotion for our great nation, is willing to sacrifice so that one day Iraq, like us, will be free to enjoy...

"...liberty and justice for all." (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)

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