[Marxism] A Nigerian GI dies in Iraq
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 1 15:57:32 MST 2004
(A thoughtful article from the usually superficial Village Voice.)
Village Voice, November 30th, 2004
A fateful path from Nigeria, through Brooklyn, to war
Iraq's Gravity Pulls a Soldier Down
by Kareem Fahim
Among the family, friends, and colleagues who inhabited his short life,
the broad, handsome National Guardsman went by several names.
His college professors and classmates knew him as Lekan, a shy, diligent
student working toward a bachelor's degree in computer science. The men
from Alpha Company, 108th Infantry Regiment out of New York State,
called the Nigerian-born machine gunner with the deep voice by his last
name, Akintade. His family, many of whom traveled from Lagos two weeks
ago to mourn their boy, just called him Sunday, for the day he was born.
And to the surrogate family he had gathered in Flatbush since he
immigrated to the U.S. in 1997—Liyah Njoroge, his Kenyan fiancée;
Lawrence Koleosho, his "cousin"; and Ojo Oyebisi, another friend—he was
Specialist Segun Frederick Akintade was killed when a bomb, buried in an
Iraqi road, detonated near his Humvee on October 28. His company had set
out on patrol at eight in the morning, and linked up with another unit
to transfer prisoners.
On the way back to headquarters, Forward Operating Base O'Ryan, just
south of the town of Al Dujayal, they were attacked. No one in the
armored Humvee was injured apart from Freddie, who died within minutes
of the blast. The army says he would have turned 35 in December.
His friends in New York say Freddie saw military service as not just a
noble calling for a country he loved, but perhaps an immigrant's lucky
path to achievement, and status. He hoped that serving would help him
bring the rest of his family, including four siblings and his mother, to
the U.S. Friends remembered him weighing different plans for his future,
maybe working with computers, joining the police force, or getting his
MBA. And he wanted to build a life with Liyah.
Like millions of other Americans who join the National Guard—and many of
the young, black men who live in neighborhoods like Flatbush, where U.S.
military recruiters routinely trawl—Freddie couldn't afford to pay for
college, even though he worked nights as a computer systems consultant
at Bear Stearns, the investment bank.
So he joined up a few months before September 11, 2001, securing money
for his classes at City Tech, medical benefits, and a life insurance policy.
Two years later, in the spring of 2003, Freddie realized a dream by
becoming an American citizen. In February 2004, he shipped off to Iraq,
joining the thousands of foreign-born soldiers on active duty there.
Some 29,000 U.S. troops are green-card holders. Since the September 11
attacks, another 18,341 have become citizens.
For many immigrants, the armed services offer a largely color-blind
system in which they can advance on their own merits. Serving in the
military can also be a way of proving one's patriotism. "It's a
statement of commitment to the nation," said David Segal, a sociologist
at the University of Maryland who specializes in military affairs.
Wartime, he said, raises the cost.
But for Freddie, Iraq was a cruel gauntlet, another trial for a young
immigrant who had already been tested.
"I remember clearly the day he told me he was going to Iraq," said
Belinda G. Smith, who taught Freddie in a class on personnel psychology
and called him smart, with a beautiful face. "I was writing on the board
at the front of the room, and he walked in and asked if he could talk to
me. We went out into the hallway, and he told me he had gotten his
orders. My jaw dropped open.
"He was terrified," she continued. "He was trying to be courageous. I
went back in and told the rest of the students. People don't make
connections. They think it happens to people they don't know."
Lawrence and Ojo
"He thought he would be defending New York," said Lawrence Koleosho,
Freddie's best friend, who lived a few blocks away from him. "Even after
9-11, he thought he would just have to guard the subways." Freddie was
one of the roughly 55,000 reservists and National Guard soldiers serving
in Iraq. Many of these "citizen-soldiers"—at least the ones who enlisted
before 9-11—thought the most action they'd see was putting down a riot,
or maybe guarding a nuclear power plant.
According to military officials, six Army National Guardsmen from New
York have died in Iraq. The most recent fatality was David Roustum,
whose Syrian-born father tried to convince him to flee to Syria when the
deployment orders came. Roustum, 22, had been part of the military honor
guard that performs funerals for soldiers. He was killed when his unit
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