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Soldier, Marine in Florida Become American Citizens

By Army Capt. Steve Alvarez
Special to American Forces Press Service

ORLANDO, Fla., April 27, 2009 – Army Spc. Carlos Andres Espinosa and Marine Corps Pfc. Ryan Rundle are no strangers to taking oaths. Both of them previously took oaths of enlistment and agreed to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, but on April 24, the U.S. government asked them to take another oath: the oath of allegiance that made them both American citizens.

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Marine Corps Pfc. Ryan Rundle, Army Spc. Carlos Andres Espinosa and Army Capt. Michael Scahill pause with a color guard from the Sons of the American Revolution and children of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees who were visiting the CIS Southeast Regional Office in Orlando, Fla., as part of "Take Your Child to Work Day," April 24, 2009. The children got to see their parents’ work come to fruition when two U.S. military personnel were sworn in as American citizens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services photo

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

“I had hopes it would happen someday,” Espinosa said. “It feels great! I finally became a U.S. citizen.”

Espinosa’s journey to citizenship started when he left his native Colombia. Eight years later, the voyage brought him into the ranks of the Army Reserve, where he serves with the 912th Adjutant General Company as a human resources specialist.

In December 2008, Espinosa’s company commander learned that the soldier was eager to deploy and serve his country overseas, but he could not deploy in his current military occupational skill because he did not have a security clearance.

Army Capt. Michael Scahill, then the commander of the 912th, sought help from the 143rd Sustainment Command’s staff judge advocate in getting Espinosa’s packet reviewed via a special program that helps to expedite servicemembers’ applications for citizenship. About four months later, Espinosa was granted his citizenship.

“I’m just thrilled to be able to see this in living color,” Scahill said. He was the keynote speaker at the naturalization ceremony for the two men.

During his remarks, Scahill said his grandfather arrived in the United States from Ireland and processed through Ellis Island in 1923 and later raised Scahill’s father in Chicago. And Scahill’s connection to the naturalization process has another family connection. His wife is Iranian, and he said their children are being reared in a “bilingual culture.”

For Rundle, the path to citizenship took a little longer — 12 years, to be exact. He left Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1996, and had to spend five years in the United States to earn his “green card.” Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said each case is different and some take longer than others do, but Rundle did not seem bothered by the wait.

The Camp Lejeune, N.C., infantryman with less than one year of military service under his belt was granted special leave to attend his naturalization ceremony.

“I wasn’t expecting all this,” Rundle said. “I’m a little nervous about it, but I appreciate it.”

In front of a group of CIS officials, friends, family and well-wishers, the two men raised their right hands and took the oath of allegiance.

“We wish to thank you for your service,” Scahill told the two men. “Somebody has to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Terry Tierny, the CIS assistant director for adjudications, administered the oath and echoed the sentiment.

“I want to express my gratitude to you for choosing this career path,” Tierney said. “You’re now citizens of the greatest nation in the world.”

The new citizens are looking forward to deploying now that they have cleared this milestone.

“We’re on workup right now for Afghanistan,” Rundle said. His unit likely will leave in August.

Espinosa, whose military job requires a security clearance, will now be able to get his clearance and do the job he joined the military to do.

“Now I’ll be able to be deployed,” Espinosa said. “Serving means a lot to me. This is really a great opportunity for me.” He likely will deploy in the fall and head to Afghanistan.

The two men have much in common; both were born outside the United States, and both enlisted to serve in the U.S. military. But later this year when they deploy to support operations in Afghanistan, both will be living out the words of the oath of allegiance they declared as citizens.

It reads, in part, “I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law,” and “I will perform work of national importance.”

CIS officials said their agency receives 6 to 7 million applications to process each year.

(Army Capt. Alvarez serves with the 143rd Sustainment Command.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Carlos Andres Espinosa stands with members of the Sons of the American Revolution after being sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Orlando, Fla., April 24, 2009. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services photo  
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