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23 Servicemembers in Afghanistan Become U.S. Citizens

By Spc. Tiffany Evans, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, July 29, 2005 – Twenty-three servicemembers serving in Afghanistan became U.S. citizens July 28 at a naturalization ceremony at the Enduring Freedom Chapel here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Karen Landsness, officer in charge of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Moscow, administers the oath of allegiance to 23 servivcemembers a naturalization ceremony at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, July 28. Photo by Sgt. Douglas DeMaio, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"I put my paperwork in about four months ago, right before I deployed," said Army Pfc. Juan Aguilar, a gunner assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. "I'm excited to now be a citizen of the country I've been serving as a soldier." Aguila,r who is from Bogotá, Columbia, lives in Gastonia, N.C. He said that becoming a citizen happened sooner than he expected.

Richard B. Norland, deputy chief of mission at the American Embassyin the Afghan capital of Kabul, was the keynote speaker at the naturalization ceremony and congratulated the new American citizens.

"All those who are becoming American citizens today, we are enriched by your contributions to the American story," said Norland. "You make me feel very proud to be here with you." Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, also expressed his gratitude to the new citizens and commented on their service to the country they now can call their own.

"It should be noted that you were willing to fight and die for the United States of America, where you were not a citizen of," said Kamiya. "It is a pleasure to be able to serve you who have so unselfishly served America." Army Spc. Gloria Sarbo, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Separates Battalion, is originally from Leon, Nicaragua, but now lives in Miami. She said her citizenship will allow her to stay in the United States with her family. "All of us are proud to take this oath of allegiance," she said. "Most of us have been living in the U.S. for awhile, we are all serving our country, and we consider ourselves Americans," she added.

"I'm excited that my friends and fellow servicemembers have been allowed this chance to take the oath of allegiance while on deployment," said Army Sgt. Jesus-Marie Chaidez, motor sergeant, 22nd Personnel Service Battalion. "I already considered them my fellow Americans for taking that step and fighting alongside me." Chaidez inquired about naturalization ceremonies in combat zones during a town hall meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in April.

The Expedited Naturalization Executive Order of 2002 enables servicemembers on active duty who serve during a period of military hostilities to immediately be eligible for expedited naturalization. Until President Bush signed the 2004 National Defenses Authorization Act, overseas naturalization ceremonies weren't allowed.

(Army Spc. Tiffany Evans, USA is assigned to the 20th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Forces Command Afghanistan

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