Pursuit of Happiness
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility …" First Lieutenant Alagie Barrow loved to read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution as a child growing up in Gambia, on the west coast of Africa. "I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful language." By the time he was in high school, Barrow wanted to be a U.S. citizen. He graduated and, in 1994, came to the U.S. on an education visa. An uncle in Nashville, TN, encouraged him to move there. While working at a Heinz ketchup plant, he saw a co-worker wearing a National Guard uniform. Barrow was excited: You could be a Soldier and have a day job? He walked into a National Guard recruiter's office and enlisted. He didn't tell his parents. He knew they wouldn't approve. Instead, he slipped off to Basic Training without a word home. When his mother saw a video of him graduating from Basic Training, she was proud. "May God help you put down the uniform in one piece," she told him. She was even prouder when he became a citizen in 2003. Sometimes, Barrow marvels at the life that he's built in the U.S. Now a public affairs officer for the National Guard, he lives with his wife and two American-born sons in Nashville. His mother came to the U.S. in 2006. He’s humbled by others who have suffered trying to come to the U.S. "I know that millions of people would die to be in my place," he says. For him, being a Soldier is a way to pay back the people who took him in as one of their own. "Everything I achieve, l owe to the U.S."