Soldier’s Wife Becomes First Military Spouse Naturalized Overseas
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2008 Zita Chouchan, the wife of a U.S. Army soldier, became a citizen of the United States on May 29 at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, in the first overseas naturalization ceremony for a military spouse.
Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, poses with Army Sgt. 1st Class Lom Chouchan, Zita Chouchan, and the couple’s children, Atilla and Eva, at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, May 29, 2008. Zita Chouchan took her citizenship oath as the first military spouse living overseas to become a naturalized U.S. citizen under a newly enacted law. Photo courtesy of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, presided over the ceremony, which also included 20 soldiers stationed throughout Germany and Kosovo.
"This week, as we observe Memorial Day, we take time to reflect upon the sacrifices our military and their families make to defend the freedoms America offers," Scharfen said. "Words cannot express our profound appreciation for the honorable service you provide. You make us proud to be Americans."
In her letter to USCIS seeking the opportunity to conduct her naturalization process and ceremony overseas, Chouchan said, "I'm very proud. … Not everyone has earned the right to be called a military spouse."
When President Bush signed the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act into law in January, portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act changed to allow certain military spouses to naturalize overseas where they are stationed. Before then, spouses could naturalize only while physically within the United States.
Chouchan’s husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Lom Chouchan, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1995. His family fled their native Cambodia in the 1970s, spending the next five years in a refugee camp before a Toledo, Ohio, family sponsored them as immigrants in the United States. His family later moved to Long Beach, Calif., where he graduated from high school before joining the Army.
(From a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services news release.)