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Thank you, Iraq war veterans: Column

My first trip to the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery was on a rainy Friday afternoon, soon after my arrival in Washington.

As the newly appointed ambassador to the United States from Iraq, it was important for me to honor the brave American men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion so that the people I represent may live to be free.

Standing before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and gazing over the rolling hills of Arlington, I was struck by the depth of the sacrifices borne by the United States to defeat tyranny, support the oppressed and build democratic institutions around the world.

I was also reminded that the brave souls at Arlington represent only a fraction of those who have served in times of combat and peace to support the American ideal -- an ideal all countries strive to achieve.

More than 16 million Americans served in World War II. After defeating the Nazis, the United States led the effort to rebuild Germany. After ending the War in the Pacific, America rebuilt Japan. Both countries enjoy vibrant economies, and they enjoy robust democracies and stable governance as well.

During my tenure as the Iraqi ambassador to Japan, I was exposed firsthand to the strength of that country's relationship with the United States, a relationship that we, the Iraqi people and government, seek to emulate with your nation.

In my country, nearly 2 million more U.S. military personnel served and helped liberate my country from Saddam Hussein and defeat al-Qaeda.

Iraq is on track to join other countries that have benefited from America's sacrifices. Our economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, oil production is growing, democratic institutions are maturing and our sixth round of elections is scheduled for April of next year.

These successes were not generated solely by Iraqis. America's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and foreign service officers helped set Iraq on the path to success -- and we are thankful to all of those brave men and women.

But that process was not without pain. Iraqis and Americans bled together to defeat Hussein and al-Qaeda -- and to keep the fabric of Iraq intact. We wept together when we had to say goodbye to fallen comrades.

Iraq is currently fighting a resurgent al-Qaeda that found new life in Syria and carried that fight back to our doorstep. With America's help, we will defeat this persistent threat once and for all through kinetic and political means.

However, this time we are not asking for American boots on the ground. Instead, we are seeking American know-how to further enable Iraq's security forces to win the war against al-Qaeda.

The sacrifices of all Americans -- and the silent, unseen battles that are still being waged by too many -- bind us together today. Walking through Section 60 in Arlington Cemetery to visit a fallen Iraqi airman who was interred with his American crew, I was reminded of this very real fact.

The United States remains Iraq's ally of choice; on this day, we reflect on, and learn from our past, and look forward to building on our partnership in the years to come.

Lukman Faily is the ambassador of Iraq to the United States.