12 Dozen Win Citizenship at Camp Victory
By Staff Sgt. Mark St. Clair, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Jul. 25, 2005 One hundred forty-three U.S. servicemembers from 42 different countries held up their right hands and became U.S. citizens today in the Al-Faw Palace rotunda here.
One hundred forty-three U.S. military members became United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Camp Victory, Iraq, July 25. Photo by Sgt. Andy Meissner, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Army and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services led the ceremony.
The Oath of Citizenship of the United States of America includes the words "... that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States of America when required by law." But Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, Multinational Corps Iraq commander, noted the new citizens had already made their decision about serving the United States.
"Before they were its citizens, they were willing to fight for it, risk everything for it and be required to spend a portion of their lives away from a country that they're dedicated to," said Vines, who presided at the ceremony.
Hawaii Army National Guardsman Spc. Richard Soriano started filing for citizenship one year ago. The 23-year-old infantryman, almost halfway through a year-long deployment with 2nd Battalion, 299 Infantry Regiment, left a brother in the Philippines and his parents, five more brothers and a sister in Kahului, Maui, when he came to Camp Victory here. "It feels great," he said of his new citizenship. "I called (my family) the other day and they were very proud. They said, 'Good for you, you got it.'"
Another new American, Pablo Perez, traveled from Mosul, Iraq, to participate. A private first class with 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade, Perez had been trying to obtain citizenship for five years. "I think (the ceremony) is outstanding, said the 23-year-old soldier from Managua, Nicaragua. "I think every soldier out here feels like they're being taken care of by the military. It's a good thing for us."
More than half of the new citizens joined the military after Sept. 11, 2001, Vines said, commenting that they knew exactly what they were risking when they agreed to serve. "They're so committed to the concepts of democracy and freedom that they're sacrificing much of their own to ensure that America remains free," Vines said.
After the remarks from Vines and presiding USCIS officer Karen Landsness -- as well as a recorded message from President Bush -- Perez, Soriano, and 141 of their newly naturalized brothers and sisters in arms were given certificates of citizenship from Vines and Landsness and an American flag from Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey, MNCI's command sergeant major.
Including Landsness, three USCIC officers had been on hand since July 21 to interview the new citizens-to-be, said Linda Dougherty, an 11-year USCIS veteran who also participated in a like ceremony in Bagram, Afghanistan, on Oct. 1. "I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the people willing to serve the U.S. before it was their own country," she added.
"We're in the presence of some great young men and women that are about to receive a title that is perhaps one of the most desired titles in history: American Citizen," Vines said.
(Army Staff Sgt. Mark St. Clair is assigned to Multinational Corps Iraq public affairs.)