RS Orlando Marine born in Baghdad, supporting America
By SSgt. Tracie Kessler
| | March 29, 2004
RSS Bradenton, Fla. --
The United States has been called “the Great Melting Pot,” referring to the vast wealth of different cultures and people that have been called to America by its promises of freedom and liberty.
For one Recruiting Station Orlando Marine, his family answered the call and escaped from a hostile country to settle in the land of the free.
Staff Sgt. Edmond Ahkteebo, a recruiter at Recruiting Substation Bradenton, Fla., was originally born in Baghdad, Iraq. With his fair skin, light green eyes and Mid-western accent, a person would guess he was from any number of places.
At the young age of four, his father was able to bring his family to the United States and settled in Chicago.
“My father told (the government) we were going on vacation to Beirut, Lebanon and we just never came back. My Dad had friends at the U.S. Embassy and they gave us green cards right away allowing us to move to the United States,” said Ahkteebo.
Ahkteebo’s family is Assyrian, one of the four major nationalities in Iraq. He explained other Iraqis have heavily persecuted Assyrians because Assyrians are the only Christians in the entire country.
“We’re like second-class citizens. If you’re not Muslim you’re second-class. But all that has changed since Saddam Hussein has been taken out of power,” Ahkteebo explained.
Even though he comes from a more unique background than many Marines, he believes he is no different than any other Marine. Many times, curious Marines will ask about his name or his origin and he is more than willing to talk about it.
“(Marines) find it hard to believe. They ask me why did I leave my country, if I am Muslim. It’s an interesting subject to them,” he explained.
“When they see me, they only see a Marine. I try to explain that you don’t have to be from America to be an American. It’s about believing in America.”
After living in the U.S. for over 20 years, Ahkteebo still has ties to Iraq. His mother still keeps in touch with two brothers, both of whom fought for Iraq in the first Gulf War, and his father keeps in touch with his sisters. Having family living in Iraq and knowing the conditions they were living in before the war started made it tough for him to have to sit out the war.
“I don't believe that things are better, I know they are, from family members telling us. Things aren't the greatest right now, but it's going to get better and they know it," he said.
“My parents have told me all of the horror stories. You had to have a picture of Saddam Hussein in your house, just all of the basic rights we take for granted (were denied in Iraq),” he said.
“Everyday (during the war) I’d watch the news and it would be eating me up inside because it’s my country. I speak the language and I should be there with the Marines and helping out with the reconstruction of the country,” Ahkteebo said.
Ahkteebo’s enlistment into the Marine Corps could be considered as unique as his background. He explained that when he decided to join the Marine Corps he only had a general education degree and scored a 48 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Test. To join with a GED, he had to have a score of 50 or higher.
His desire to join the Marines and serve his country was so strong, however, that he was not going to take no for an answer. After dealing with his recruiting station commanding officer and the Eastern and Western Recruiting Regions, his quest finally led him to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
After several attempts at calling the Commandant, at that time it was General Charles Krulak, he was finally able to get through.
“He said ‘You keep calling here and harassing my secretary’, so he took my information and the (recruiting station commanding officer) called me 15 minutes later. Two days later I was at (the military entrance processing station),” explained Ahkteebo.
“I thought it was important to serve my country and the best way to do that was through the Marine Corps,” said Ahkteebo.