Iraq: Obama Honours Nigeria-born US Soldier for Gallantry

2010-05-02
THISDAY Newspaper- Tokunbo Adedoja

For Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee, a Nigerian-born member of the United States Marine Corps, it was an honour well-deserved as President Barack Obama presented him with the Outstanding American by Choice award at a ceremony at the White House in Washington DC.


At the naturalisation ceremony held at the Rose Gardens of the White House, recently, where 24 active duty service members became US citizens, Obama specifically called on Sergeant Ndaanee to step forward for special recognition.
Obama said: "Growing up in Nigeria, Ledum probably never imagined he’d be standing on this stage today. Neither did I. But thanks to the generosity of churches in Virginia, he and his parents found a home in the United States. And Ledum, who says 'I always wanted to be in the military,' found his calling in the United States Marine Corps.


"He deployed to Iraq, and was serving his second tour when his unit was struck by an improvised explosive device. In the weeks and months that followed, he battled to recover from traumatic brain injury. At a VA medical center, with his parents at his side, he was presented a Purple Heart. And a few moments later, he was sworn in as an American citizen.
"This Marine was not only determined to recover, he was determined to help others. He has been a leader and mentor to his fellow wounded warriors. In fact, I hear he’s quite an athlete.
"So for his distinguished service to the country, and for inspiring us all with his example of what citizenship truly means, I am proud to join the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in presenting this recognition - the Outstanding American by Choice award- to Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee,” President Obama said.
After the presentation of the award, the US President also directed Ndaanee to conclude the day's ceremony by leading the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commenting on the significance of the occasion, Obama said, "We celebrate the spirit of possibility - an ethic that says if you’re willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and apply your God-given talents, if you believe in yourself and you play by the rules, then there is a place for you in the United States of America - no matter where you come from and no matter what you look like.
"It’s the spirit that brought a young woman from the People’s Republic of China and inspired her to enlist in the United States Air Force, where she excels as a material management specialist. So today we congratulate our fellow citizen, Yu Yuan.
"It’s the spirit that brought a refugee from Ethiopia and led him to enlist in the US army because, he said, he wanted to give back to the country that 'has given me the opportunity to be all that I can be.' And today we congratulate Berhan Teferi.
"We celebrate the true meaning of patriotism - the love of a country that’s so strong that these men and women were willing to risk their lives to defend our country even before they could call it their own.
"It’s a patriotism of a daughter of Mexico, who came to America in those first terrible days after 9/11, joined the US Navy and says, 'I take pride in our flag and the history that forged this great nation and the history we write day by day.' So today we congratulate Perla Ramos.
"And it’s the patriotism of a young man from Papua New Guinea, who joined the United States Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq - not once, not twice, but three times. Asked why he would choose to become an American citizen, he said simply, 'I might as well. I love this country already.' And so we congratulate Granger Michael."

"Most of all, to America’s newest citizens - it is a great honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief, and it is my greatest pleasure to be among the first to greet you as a 'fellow American.'
Speaking further, the US President said, "Today is your day -- a celebration of 24 inspiring men and women and the remarkable journeys that have brought you together on this beautiful spring morning to our nation’s capitol. The paths that led you here began in more than a dozen countries, from Peru to Poland, from Kenya to the Philippines.


"Some of you came to America as children, holding tight to your parents’ hands as you arrived in a new world. Some of you came as adults, leaving everything you knew behind in pursuit of a new life. And while your stories are your own, today we celebrate the common spirit that lives within each of you -- a spirit that has renewed and strengthened America for more than two centuries.
"We celebrate the love of family -- your moms and dads who were willing to say good-bye to their own families, their own countries, so they could have an opportunity to give you the opportunity you never had. Like generations of immigrants before them, they worked hard. They scrimped and they saved. They deferred their own dreams so that you could realize yours. So today is a tribute to their sacrifices as well,” he said.


 

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