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Iraqi recruit joins fight against terrorism

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO — As a child, Amed Kanan dreamed of serving in the Marine Corps. He wished to join the ranks of the uniformed men he saw doing good things in his community. When he told his friends about his dream of becoming a Marine, he was ridiculed, called a traitor, and told to do so would betray his country. How could serving in the Marines betray his country? The reason is because Amed Kanan grew up in Iraq.


7/11/2008 By Lance Cpl. Shawn Dickens, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

Kanan moved to America with his family when he was 10-years-old. Although his family now lives in Coon Rapids, Minn., Kanan remembers what it was like to grow up in Iraq.

"I lived in a mud house and slept on the ground," said Kanan. "We had no electricity, and if we were lucky enough to have electricity, it was only on for about four hours a day, if that."

Kanan compared what it was like to grow up in both Iraq and America.

Kanan explained that in Iraq, boys and girls are segregated; they go to different schools.

"The things you learn in school are different as well," said Kanan. "Here you learn about world history and other cultures; in Iraq you only learn Iraqi history, and you get your bachelors degree in high school. Unlike here, in America you go to college to get it."

Teens do not date in Iraq like they do here in America, said Kanan.

"By the age 15 or 16, young men are expected to get married and start their own families," he continued.

Kanan also mentioned that life is a lot more dangerous in Iraq.

He would hear gunfights outside and see dead bodies just lying on the street

Despite all that Kanan has seen and experienced in his young life, nothing could prepare him for the experience that he would receive at recruit training.

"Kanan thought that he made the wrong choice," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Romer, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2130. "He had self-esteem issues and was shy; I didn’t think he was going to make it."

However, now that training is over, the drill instructors notice a difference in Kanan. According to Romer, Kanan seems to be much more confident with himself.

Even Kanan notices the changes that the Marine Corps has made in him.

"I had low self-esteem and didn’t really like taking orders, but now I stand taller as a man, and I am respectful to others," said Kanan. "It is all because of the drill instructors. If it was not for them pushing me passed my limits, I would not be where I am now. They helped me prove to myself I could do it.

"The Marines gave me a chance to do something with my life," said Kanan. "I look back and can tell I have changed, not just personality-wise, but physically as well. I’ve lost 40 pounds since I got here."

Kanan’s platoon mates have also noticed his transformation into a Marine.

"Kanan has lost a lot of weight," said Recruit Andrew Parks, fellow platoon mate, and friend. "He didn’t really talk much at first, but after a while he started telling me stories about growing up in Iraq."

During their time in recruit training, Parks learned a lot about his friend Kanan, who always went out of his way to help others.

"He helped me out a lot with everything," said Recruit Jose Coronado. "Actually he helps everyone; he is just a good person to be around."

Helping others is the main reason Kanan joined the Marine Corps.

"I joined so I could make a difference and so I could help my country—my countries actually," said Kanan. "The Marines have given me that chance. I wanted to accomplish something. I wanted to make a difference."

Kanan plans on using his language skills to help both of his countries and become a translator.

"America has given me a lot since my family and I moved here. Joining the Marines is just one of the ways I can give back," Kanan concluded.