Naturalization Ceremony Honors New Uniformed Citizens
(September 17, 2009)
Marine Sgt. Tikonblah
Dargbeh poses with his mother Martha Dargbeh
following a Sept. 10, 2009 naturalization
ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.,
during which the Marine officially became a U.S.
citizen. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st
Class Molly Burgess
||WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2009
– Marine Sgt. Tikonblah Dargbeh is like the tens
of thousands of other troops who have served in
Iraq as a U.S. military member, save for one
major distinction: until today, Dargbeh was not
But his national status changed when Dargbeh, a
native of Liberia, and 30 other foreign-born
U.S. military members officially became American
citizens today at a naturalization ceremony at
“Represented here are immigrants from 20
different nations, on five continents,” Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates told the crowd
gathered in the building's center courtyard. “It
is one of the true glories of our country that,
when it comes to being an American, you don't
have to be a descendant of the founders or the
colonists who came over on the Mayflower.”
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 50,000 men and
women have become citizens while wearing the
uniform of the U.S. military, said Gates, adding
that more than a hundred of these
newly-naturalized citizens have died in action.
Gates called it fitting that in accordance
with a 2002 executive order, immigrants who serve on active
duty become immediately eligible for U.S. citizenship, which
often represents an expedited path for foreign-born
servicemembers to become Americans. |
“This nation that welcomes you with warmth and with pride is
very much in your debt, because you have shown your love for
this country in the most honorable way possible,” he said.
“So on behalf of the Department of Defense, I thank you for
defending the people of the United States – your people –
and the ‘self-evident truths' which they hold so dear.”
Gates' fellow cabinet member Janet Napolitano, the secretary
of Homeland Security, led the group in reciting the Oath of
Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.
In various accents of English, the immigrants
repeated each clause of the oath. Together, they renounced
“fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or
sovereignty,” vowed to support and defend the U.S.
Constitution and the nation's laws, promised to serve at the
will of the nation, and pledged they were assuming their
duties “without any mental reservation or purpose of
|Secretary of Homeland
Security Janet Napolitano administers the oath
of allegiance to 31 immigrant military service
personnel representing 20 different countries of
origin, during a naturalization ceremony held,
Sept. 10, 2009, in the center courtyard of the
Pentagon. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates,
seated right with Alejandro Mayorkas, director
of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service,
addressed the new citizens, family members and
guests, expressing their pride in the
determination and patriotism of the new U.S.
citizens. DoD photo by R. D. Ward
The servicemembers represent the 20
countries of Bangladesh, China, Ecuador, |
Ghana, Haiti, India, Iran, Jamaica, Liberia, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, South Korea, Sri
United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
None better illustrates the idea of sacrifice on behalf of
the United States than Dargbeh. The Liberian native, whose
father instilled in him the belief that America represented
greater opportunity to excel, enlisted in the Marines and
twice deployed to Iraq.
During his tour in Karmah, Iraq, in 2007, Dargbeh and his
Marine unit prepared for a nearby mission. Dargbeh, a
machine gunner, sat in the back of a 7-ton Mac armored
vehicle, clutching his weapon.
Moments later, the vehicle was rear-ended by a car packed
“We were going to go do a raid at another village. I was
trying to put my weapon from ‘safety' to ‘semi-automatic'
and that's the last thing I remember,” Dargbeh said. “The
next thing I know, I was at a medical facility.”
As a result, Dargbeh received a Purple Heart for suffering
injuries at the hands of an enemy on behalf of the United
States – a country that wasn't even his own at the time.
When asked if he feels his military service has helped him
earn his U.S. citizenship, he replied, “I think so, yes.”
“I understand what it means to give selfless service [to the
U.S.],” he said.
After the ceremony, Dargbeh's exuberant family showered the
Marine with praise and posed next to him in photographs.
“I'm overjoyed,” said the Marine's mother, Marta. “As a
little kid, he had always loved the military, so this is a
dream come true for him to be able to get into the Marines
and here he is a U.S. citizen. It's a really big occasion
for us. We are very proud of him.”
Another servicemember whose dream of becoming an American
came after deployment with the U.S. military was Army Sgt.
In addition to defending a nation that she couldn't yet call
her own, Ceron, who served as a nurse in the Combat Support
Hospital in Mosul, received two Army Commendation Medals.
“It's a very happy day,” she said of today's ceremony. “I've
been trying to get my citizenship for three years and
finally it's come today and it's so great it's here. I'm
just very excited about it.”
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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