Iraqi refugee graduates top of her class, joins Marine Corps

Marine Corps Pfc. Amanda H. Issa prepares for graduation from boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 30, 2016. Issa, 21, from Madison Heights, Mich., grew up in Mosul, Iraq, and moved to the United States in May 2011. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren

As 600 additional U.S. troops are headed to help retake Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Issa family knows all too well the dangers of the area.

Marine Corps Pfc. Amanda H. Issa prepares for graduation from boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 30, 2016. Issa, 21, from Madison Heights, Mich., grew up in Mosul, Iraq, and moved to the United States in May 2011. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren

The Issa family escaped Mosul because of the rising threat of ISIL. They stayed in a refugee camp in Turkey for almost a year before moving to Michigan in 2011, a move made for the hope of a better education and more opportunities for couple’s three children.

Amanda H. Issa, a teenager when she moved to the United States with her family, referred to the Marines she saw in Mosul as heroes.

Now, a 21-year-old Marine private first class herself, she wears the same Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia, and has the potential to be a hero for another little girl.

Issa graduated in the top 10 in her high school and went on to earn an associate’s degree in global studies from Oakland Community College before enlisting in the Marine Corps. On Jan. 19, 2016, Issa stepped onto Parris Island’s iconic yellow footprints, only to be injured a month later on a conditioning hike. The injury was bad enough that doctors told her she could be medically separated.

Issa fought that prospect, and eventually returned to training. She graduated Sept. 30 with Platoon 4034, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

“Now, to be called a Marine is unbelievable,” she said shortly after taking the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. “Yeah, being a U.S. citizen is great, but I came here to be a Marine.”

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