On July Fourth we celebrate American Independence, and we also celebrate those who have fought and are fighting to protect it. Every soldier deserves to be remembered—but often, the Arab-Americans who fought in the wars of our country are not mentioned. Why is this?
It’s not because Arab-Americans haven’t served; records show that ever since the Revolutionary War, Arab and Muslim-Americans have fought alongside their fellow Americans. According to The Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History, at least four served in the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, one Arab-American, Moses Osman, even became a captain in the Union army! Fast-forwarding to World War 1, it is reported that 13,965 Syrian-Americans served. So the issue is not that Arab-Americans have not served- the issue that their service is not being reported on.
It is difficult to find accurate data on the number of Arab-Americans in the military. All the data we have on how many Arab-Americans have served in the military is due to independent studies. For example, a famous Princeton professor, Philip Hitti, performed the study that found that 13,965 Syrian-Americans served in World War 1. Other figures are merely estimates, such as the estimate that around 15,000 Arab-Americans served in World War 2. And in cases such as the Revolutionary or Civil War, studies attempting to identify Arab-Americans often have to rely solely on looking at names and determining if they sound like Arab names. Needless to say, this is not a perfect system. Due to these facts, the actual number of Arab-Americans who served in earlier wars may always be a mystery.
Despite these facts, on the Fourth of July it is vital to remember those who have served. So let’s remember the service of Arab-Americans as well! Arab-Americans have on many occasions been recognized for their outstanding bravery in service. Instead of dwelling on the issues we face trying to find accurate information on Arabs-American in the military, let’s remember some Arab-Americans who have been recognized for their service.
Retired General George Joulwan is an internationally distinguished Army leader who has been personally commended by President Clinton for his service. He rose through the ranks of the army to become Chief of Staff of the 3rdInfantry Division, gaining many medals and recognitions for his service such as the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, among others. He then served in the Pentagon, and after holding several different positions there, he became an international military leader. He served as the Supreme Allied Commander in the 90’s, controlling NATO Allied Command Operations. This is the second highest position in NATO! Joulwan has since retired from command, but his history of service remains impeccable and vastly impressive.
Michael Monsoor is another Arab-American who bravely served his country. His tragic story instantly made headlines all over the world after his death in 2006. Monsoor, a Lebanese soldier, served as a Marine SEAL in Iraq. He rose through the ranks to become a Master-at-Arms, and was awarded the Silver and Bronze stars for his service. Monsoor was still serving in Iraq when he threw himself onto a grenade to protect his comrades. His sacrificial act of bravery was internationally recognized, and President Bush posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor. Monsoor was the first Arab-American ever to receive this honor.
One last Arab-American to remember for their service today is Col. James “Jabby” Jabara, who made history by becoming the first American jet ace! Jabara, born in 1923, served in
World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1943 and flew tours in World War 2 and the Korean War. In 1951, he shot down his sixth jet, making him the first American jet ace in history. Jabara was awarded multiple times for his exemplary service in World War 2. Sadly, Jabara died in a car accident as he was preparing to be deployed to Vietnam. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in the same grave as his daughter, who died in the car accident with him.
Joulwan, Monsoor, and Jabara are all excellent examples of the ways in which Arab-Americans have served their country in times of war. Ever since the Revolutionary War, Arabs have fought alongside their fellow Americans to protect the United States, and as such, they deserve to be remembered alongside their fellow American heroes!