Troops Become Citizens During Memorable Naturalization Ceremony
(May 26, 2009)
Servicemembers celebrate their first Memorial
Day as U.S. citizens at a naturalization
ceremony, May 25, 2009 at Bagram Air Field,
Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo
||BAGRAM AIR FIELD,
Afghanistan , May 25, 2009
One hundred and six servicemembers, including 94 soldiers, 10
Marines and two sailors, from countries from
Mexico to Japan, celebrated their first Memorial
Day as U.S. citizens during a naturalization
ceremony here today.
After a long naturalization process, emotions
ran high as the servicemembers' journey finally
came to an end.
“It's very overwhelming, I'm in harm's way every
day and have worked very hard to get to this
point,” said Army Spc. Rhett Cayobit, a
Philippine native. “I was very lucky that my
unit supported me from day one.” Cayobit is an
engineer with the 68th Combat Support Equipment
Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer
Servicemembers stood proud as they heard
trumpets sound their new national anthem. After the last
note fell and the servicemembers took their seats, Maj. Gen.
Jeffrey Schloesser, commanding general for Combined Joint
Task Force-101 spoke about what it means to be a U.S.
“This is a privilege, but one you've earned,” Schloesser
Corinna Luna-Benavides, the field office director of the
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the Middle
East spoke to the audience of about 325 people.
“Historically this is the largest group to gain their
citizenship in Afghanistan, hopefully on Veterans Day in
November we will have even more,” she said.
The naturalization process involves detailed applications,
interviews, and reviews that normally takes nine months. For
Sgt. Young Kim, a South Korea native and a transportation
non-commissioned officer with the 154th Transportation
Company from Fort Hood, Texas, it took eight years.
“It's so relieving because now I can bring my family over to
the U.S.,” said Kim. “I had to submit my packet four times
but now that I have my citizenship. I plan on getting my
security clearance and going to Officer Candidate School.”
For the first time in Afghanistan, a taped video message
from President Barack Obama was shown, congratulating the
newest citizens of the U.S.
“This now officially your country,” said Obama. “In America,
no dream is impossible. Together we can keep the beacon of
America bright enough for all the world to see.”
Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson
40th Public Affairs Detachment
American Forces Press Service
Forces Press Service / DoD
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