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German immigrant takes bullet for U.S. 'ideals'

  • Story Highlights
  • Soldier was one of more than 20,000 "green-card warriors"
  • Jeffrey Jamaleldine's dad wonders why his son is more "American than German"
  • Jamaleldine went to college in the U.S. and fell in love with the American dream
  • "You can go from rags to riches there. People still believe in that," he says
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By Frederik Pleitgen
CNN
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Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series looking at "non-citizens" serving in the U.S. military.

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Jeffrey Jamaleldine took a bullet to his chin that blew out much of his jaw and nearly killed him while deployed in Iraq last year. The sacrifice is just part of his job, he says, and he'd go back to Iraq in a second if asked.

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Jeffrey Jamaleldine left Germany for college in America. In 2006, he joined the U.S. Army.

That is something that troubles his family, especially his father. Jamaleldine served in the U.S. Army as a German citizen, one of an estimated 20,500 "green-card warriors" in the military.

Last month, Jamaleldine was awarded U.S. citizenship, but he's keeping his German passport.

Bashir Jamaleldine says his son is fighting an unjust war for an America that went too far when it invaded Iraq five years ago -- a sentiment shared by the majority of Germans. He wishes his son would get back to his "German roots."

"It would satisfy me more. Why he's more American than a German, I don't know," he says.

Of his son's time in Iraq, the father says, "He went there to receive this bullet. If he would not have gone there, he wouldn't have been wounded; he wouldn't be in the hospital; he wouldn't be treated by a doctor. He would be living in peace with his family."

Shaking his head with his son at his side, he adds, "He is more American than German."

Jeffrey Jamaleldine, a 31-year-old U.S. Army scout who proudly wears a Stetson hat and spurs on his boots, laughs. He says he and his dad have had countless arguments over his decision to join the U.S. military, but the two never budge from their positions. Video See his shattered jaw and debate with his dad »

"He hears what I'm saying, but there's just no coming through," he says.

The father came to Germany from Africa years ago. He says his son should be devoting his energy to fighting hunger and poverty in Africa, not fighting in Iraq.

The son agrees with his father on one thing: His love for America is unwavering. Jeffrey Jamaleldine moved to the United States to go to college in Missouri at the age of 18 and immediately fell in love with the United States and its culture.

"You can go from rags to riches there. People still believe in that. It is not something that has gotten lost," he says.

And when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, happened, he felt it was time for him to do something.

"A small group of people [terrorists] -- I felt -- had a big influence on our way of life and that literally pissed me off," he says.

By accident, he says he found out that with his green card, he could join the U.S. military. And in 2006, he did just that. Read why a "green-card" Marine would die for America

Last year, he paid a heavy price for his patriotism. Pinned down in a firefight with insurgents in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, Jamaleldine was shot in the face.

"I felt like I got hit by Mike Tyson," he says, pointing to a two-inch long scar on his left cheek.

The left side his jaw was shattered and now doctors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany are reconstructing his facial bones.

"Part of the projectile is still stuck in the right cheekbone," Dr. Edward Vanisky says. "But if it doesn't cause you any problems, we'll just leave it in there."

While many Americans would consider Jamaleldine a hero, most in his home country don't. Germans largely oppose the Iraq war. The criticism doesn't bother him. Video Watch why a German would fight for U.S. »

He says even after getting wounded on the battlefield, he would go fight for America again if ordered back to Iraq.

"I still don't want to die, I love life, I enjoy life," he says. "But I would still make the sacrifice to go to Iraq again if I am called. If I have to go, I will -- to stand up for what I believe in," he says.

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His father looks on in disbelief as he listens to his son, now an American citizen. But Jeffrey Jamaleldine says joining the military was never about that, it was about defending American ideals.

"If we have people who want to change those ideals or take them away," he says, "then there are people like me or my platoon who stand up and fight for those ideals." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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