All Americans know that there are countless war heroes currently serving our nation in Iraq. What they may not know is that some of those war heroes completed their military service decades ago. George Aldaya earned three Bronze Stars and four Army Commendation Medals for Valor for his duty in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. While his Army service has long since ended, his service to his nation never ceased, and it unexpectedly put him overseas once again as part of a military operation.
The reconstruction of Iraq is a humanitarian as well as military undertaking and is hence drawing on talent from throughout our government, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). George Aldaya is the Director of USDA’s Commodity Office in Kansas City, where he has been repeatedly recognized for exemplary service. And to those who know him, it came as no surprise when his government tapped him to help the Iraqi people rebuild their agriculture infrastructure.
Under a United Nations Security Council Resolution, various UN agencies were charged with operating humanitarian programs on behalf of the Iraqi people, and with Aldaya’s assistance, more than $90 million in funding for agriculture will be delivered to the Regional Government and the Ministries of Agriculture for projects in 2004.
During Aldaya’s two tours of duty in Iraq, his team reviewed and prioritized projects, developed budgets, and finalized plans to transition agricultural programs and assets to the new governments. Projects included plant protection and production programs, water resource and irrigation projects, and forestry initiatives. Aldaya conducted an assessment of all projects under consideration, and his recommendations were ultimately critical in determining which programs will continue. He was also part of the Oil for Food transition team and worked to preserve worthwhile Food and Agriculture Organization programs.
Aldaya not only contributed to our nation’s work in Iraq as an expert consultant, but as an ambassador. Members of the local Agricultural Ministry staff and senior advisors to the Iraq Minister of Agriculture have all been highly complimentary of Aldaya, further confirming the positive impact of his work. And in the long run, these types of positive interactions with Iraqis may prove to be as critical to our ultimate success in Iraq as his other contributions.
The bottom line is that George Aldaya is a true patriot. He has already served his country for more than 36 years, first as a soldier and now at USDA, so there can be no question the he has more than paid his dues for his country. But when his country needed him in Iraq, he answered the call once again. And our nation and the Iraqi people are better off because for it.