Soldier's Diary: Becoming an American, While in Iraq

Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.

1 September

Our time is short, nearly equivalent in days to the Mets' Magic Number; I think it's a good way to keep track of time, as clinching the National League East and a redeployment are both inevitable.

August is over, and needless to say it's a tremendous feeling. The days are getting shorter, the temperature is starting to drop and Labor Day weekend is fast approaching.

We conducted another awards and promotion ceremony for some of our soldiers. This one was a little different, as we expect it will be the last one for this rotation in Iraq. Four soldiers in my company were promoted; we awarded one Achievement Medal, two Combat Medical Badges to our medics and eight Combat Action Badges or CABs.

In addition to the promotion and awards ceremony, I had two of my soldiers return from a trip to LSA Anaconda. They took the trip to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. This was the second time my soldiers attended citizenship ceremonies. Although they missed two days of work to make the trip, there is no doubt in my mind they deserve the time they had off to attend the ceremony.

Private First Class Edwin Burrueto took his citizenship oath this past week. A native of Peru, he immigrated to America and decided that his adopted country was worth fighting for. He is a mortar man by trade, and his performance over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Pfc. Burrueto graduated from college in Peru, but his degree was not recognized because his school was not accredited. He has spent a good part of his off-time taking classes online, when the Internet connection is up.

To sum it up: You have a soldier deployed to Baghdad for a year. During his time he has reenlisted, been promoted, earned his citizenship and taken college courses online during his precious moments of downtime.

If you ever wonder what makes our military so strong, it's not the equipment we ride in, it's not the weapons we fire — it's soldiers like this.

As we draw closer to our redeployment, a sense of sentimentality has kicked in. Each section and platoon in my company has taken some time to take a group photo. And it seems as if soldiers are taking their meals in groups more often. I think it's a sense of realizing that when we go home, we will never have the camaraderie that we have here.

When you eat every meal and spend most of your time with the same people day after day, and your lives depend on each other, you tend to develop a special bond. As we get ready to go, we tell each other that we will grab a couple of beers or have someone over for dinner one night.

When you get back, reality hits, the priority moves to spending time with your wife and kids; you bring a bag lunch to work rather than eating with your peers. We promise one another that the camaraderie will continue, but just because you write "stay in touch" inside a yearbook, it doesn't mean you do.

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