September 17, 2012 - Sgt. Ling Zheng, a native of Shen Yang, China, joined the Army in August 2005 as a Human Resource Specialist. Zheng became an American citizen November 2007 and shows her support to the naturalization through military service program as a Third Army/ARCENT policy and programs non-commissioned officer. Photo by Army Sgt. Jason Daniels
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (9/18/2012) – Sgt. Ling Zheng spent the first 15 years of her life in the city of Shen Yang, China. In 1996, at 11 years old, Zheng was left with her father, her grandparents and her aunt while her mother moved to Concord, Calif., in search of the “American Dream.”
“She left China to move to the States to make money, American money,” said Zheng.
Zheng realized that she also wanted to live that dream, so at 15 years old she flew to the U.S. to live with her mother. But it wasn't an easy transition coming from China to the U.S.
“It wasn't my intention to come,” Zheng said, “When I was growing up, I was never like, ‘When I grow up, I want to go to the States.' My mom was already there and I felt like I needed to be there. I am her kid.”
When Zheng arrived in America, she attended Ygnacio Valley High School. But because the education system in China is different than America's education system, Zheng was forced to repeat her freshman year.
“I didn't speak any English when I first got here. They taught us in China when I was in elementary school and we learned a little more every year,” said Zheng, “but I never really picked up anything.”
The only words Zheng knew how to say in English were very simple words like “hello” and “how are you?”
“When I first came, there was such a language barrier. There was a lot I didn't understand,” Zheng said, “They said it would be better if I start off fresh as a freshman because I can't really go back to middle school. So instead of sticking me with my actual class year, I just took freshman.”
Zheng took two years of English as a second language classes in addition to her standard high school courses.
In 2005, Zheng graduated from YVHS with a 3.85 grade-point average and joined the Army in August of that year as a human resource specialist.
“At the time I was thinking, I still wasn't a citizen,” Zheng said, “The recruiter called me and they offered all these benefits. I wouldn't worry about paying rent and I'd get healthcare along with the Army paying for school with the G.I. Bill.”
Zheng wanted to be independent. She said that if she was still in China, she would probably live at home until she was at least 25. With her being in the Army, she not only gets to be more independent, she gets to travel the world.
“My first duty station was Kaiserslautern, Germany,” Zheng said, “I loved it.”
The transition for Zheng from the U.S. to Germany was just another country to experience, she said.
“I have already left China, I was already in a foreign country, so why not,” Zheng said.
“When they first told me I was going to Germany, they said, ‘You are going to deploy' and I was scared,” Zheng said, “But when I got there [Germany] it wasn't bad. It was like when I first moved to the States, except now I don't speak German. But I didn't need to learn German because I am surrounded by soldiers who speak English.”
"Sgt. Zheng is a great contribution to our team," said Sgt. 1st Class Virshelle Dugger, non-commissioned officer in charge, Third Army/ARCENT policy and programs division, "Everywhere she goes, she's an inspiration to the soldiers."
Being around soldiers, and having a cousin that received his citizenship while serving in the Army, helped Zheng learn about the Army naturalization program.
"I heard people talking about it," Zheng said, "I heard that if you are in the service, it makes it easier."
Zheng went on to say that it took her mother and her friends, who are civilians, a long time to receive their citizenship.
"When they had to go to the interviews, they needed a lot of information and forms," Zheng said, "It's just easier, because I am service member."
Naturalization Through Military Service is an interdepartmental program that allows special benefits to service members and their Families who are not currently U.S. citizens, benefits which come with citizenship.
"I love being in the states. I love being an American" said Zheng.
Zheng still goes to visit China every couple years, but she says she is no longer used to that environment. She is an American soldier, and in November 2007, she officially became an American citizen. As a soldier who has gone through the naturalization through military service program, Zheng actively shows her support as a Third Army/ARCENT policy and programs non-commissioned officer, which governs the organization and operations of programs that assists soldiers in succeeding, such as the naturalization through military service program.
By Army Sgt. Jason Daniels
Provided through DVIDS
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