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.
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
“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
The only words Zheng knew how to say in English were very
simple words like “hello” and “how are you?”
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.
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.”
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.
people talking about it," Zheng said, "I heard that if you
are in the service, it makes it easier."
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."
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
"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
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