Re-Enlisting En Masse (“Re-enlistment bonuses signed up for in ! a combat zone are tax-free”)
July 5, 2008
Re-Enlisting En MasseMore than 1,200 vow to carry on By Mike Tharp, McClatchy Newspapers
Baghdad–The U.S. military in Iraq celebrated the Fourth of July with what it billed as “the largest re-enlistment ceremony ever held,” with 1,215 soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen re-pledging allegiance to America.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, administered the oath in Saddam Hussein’s former Al-Faw Palace. John Phillip Sousa’s marches blended with roars of “freedom,” “hooah” and “oorah” from the men and women, many of them carrying their weapons, as they re-upped in their service branches.
Money was an incentive for many, but so was a belief in what they’re doing m! ore than five years into a war far away from their homes. Hundreds were in their second and third tours in the combat zone.
“There’s no place I’d rather be to celebrate America’s birthday than here in Iraq,” said Petraeus, who described the troops as “America’s new ‘Greatest Generation.’ ” The troops’ commitment and sacrifice, he said, have given the Iraqi people “the most precious gift … freedom.”
The general said the combined total of their additional service amounted to 5,500 years.
“The millions of dollars” they receive was certainly one motive, he said, “but no bonus no matter the size can compare with the sacrifices you make in Iraq or the sacrifices your loved ones make back home.”
Army re-enlistment bonuses top out at $40,000, Navy at $75,000, Air Force at $60,000 and the Marines at $45,000. A bonus’ size also depends on rank, military specialty, years of extension, years of service and other factors. Re-enlistment bonuses signed up for in ! a combat zone are tax-free.
Elsewhere across Iraq, America’s Ind ependence Day was a normal workday for most U.S. troops. But the military threw in a taste of home at larger bases with ribs, corn on the cob and red, white and blue cake.
The holiday was leaner at smaller outposts closer to the violence.
“We are not going to stop our operations to celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Sgt. Mark Johnson, 26, at a small joint U.S.-Iraqi outpost in the city of Iskandariyah, some 30 miles south of Baghdad.
“Nothing special is planned for today, and that’s OK because we didn’t expect anything,” the 3rd Infantry Division soldier from Waterport, N.Y., said.
He’s hoping to head home later this month on his mid-tour break to be with his girlfriend when she gives birth to their first child.
R. W. “Dick” Gaines
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