Marine Corps Base Quantico Welcomes New Citizens
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., Nov. 3, 2004 As the nation waited for confirmation of the identity of its next president, about 50 members of the five United States military services today earned the right to vote in the 2008 election by becoming naturalized U.S. citizens here.
About 50 servicemembers from all five branches of the U.S.
armed forces recite the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as American
citizens. Michael Petrucelli, deputy director and chief of staff, Bureau of
Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the oath of citizenship at
Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Nov. 3 as the new citizens' family and friends
looked on. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Before Michael Petrucelli, deputy director and chief of staff for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services administered the oath of citizenship to the servicemembers, Marine Brig. Gen. William D. Catto welcomed the group and offered his congratulations.
"We regret that we couldn't get this thing done a couple days sooner for you so you could've voted," Catto, commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, told the candidates. "But it's a privilege to be here with you. I'm honored that all of you would want to become citizens of this country."
The new citizens, originally hailing from around the globe, each had a personal reason for becoming a citizen.
For Marine Cpl. Bonifacio Lee, it was about opening doors. His Korean parents came to the United States from Paraguay, where Lee was born, out of concern for his future and that of his sister, he said.
"The United States, I've seen, is a nation full of opportunity for people who want success and (to) achieve their full potential," Lee said. "Growing up, I've realized that living in the United States will help me accomplish many things in life. So for that reason, now as a grownup, I've decided to settle in this country."
And he chose service in the Marine Corps to give back to the country that offers so many opportunities.
Marine Corps University Chief of Staff Col. Leo A. Mercado, himself a naturalized U.S. citizen, recognized, collectively, the group's service to their adopted country.
"Many of you answered the call to arms and you have taken a solemn oath to defend this country not as citizens, but as Americans," Mercado said. "Many of you have volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the United States, no promises other than the opportunity to serve your adopted country.
"I personally believe that being American is not determined by whether you are native-born or naturalized, but a state of mind," he said. "I encourage you to become an active participant in the country that is now yours. Your cultural heritage should not be what sets you apart from your fellow Americans, but what contributes to the strength of your community."
After Petrucelli administered the oath of citizenship, the country's newest citizens recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as naturalized Americans. They then received their certificates of citizenship.
The conclusion of the ceremony was a relief for Sgt. Hala Ghada Monsour, originally of Sierra Leone, who has been selected for promotion to staff sergeant. She has been a Marine for seven years and 10 months, and for the past three years has been trying to become a citizen. However, frequent moves always seemed to thwart her effort.
"When I was actually deployed to Iraq in March of this year, I had my paperwork put in and I was called for April, but I was out of country," Monsour said. "So as soon as I came back in country I took the chance and the opportunity to finish up the paperwork."
Monsour said it worked out great, and now that she's a citizen she hopes to get her father and stepbrother to the States for a good long visit.
Like Monsour, Mustafa Hussaini, originally of Afghanistan, also has family in his home country.
"I think they'd be proud of me," said Hussaini, who has been a soldier for about six years. He added that he's been in the States for about 20 years and has always wanted to be a citizen.
Michael Petrucelli, Deputy Director and Chief of Staff, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Marine Brig. Gen. William D. Catto, Commander, Marine Corps Systems Command