Face of Defense: Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen
By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shane Arrington
Joint Task Force Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, May. 13, 2010 Army Spc. Carlos Baptista of the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s 115th Military Police Company had dreamed of becoming an American citizen since he left the island country of Cape Verde off the African coast when he was just 4 years old.
Army Spc. Carlos Baptista of the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s 115th Military Police Battalion takes the U.S. oath of allegiance during his naturalization ceremony at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 19, 2010. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shane Arrington
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Twenty years later, that dream became a reality when he took the oath of allegiance while deployed here with Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
Completing the process makes Baptista proud – and his parents, as well, he said.
“I know this brings a big smile to my parents’ faces,” Baptista said with a smile of his own, shortly after taking the oath that officially made him a citizen of the country he’d already sworn to support and defend almost four years ago. Along with Baptista, Army Sgt. Ardicio Galvao and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jo Kurosu received their citizenship during the naturalization ceremony.
Baptista joined the Rhode Island Army National Guard on Sept. 11, 2006, and he made it clear it was no coincidence he joined on that date. But while getting his citizenship has always been a goal, he said, it was easier said than done.
“I’ve always been very busy, but I needed to start working on my citizenship,” Baptista said. “[I had to] get it while in Cuba to come on this deployment. I was really lucky to have so many people help me. My command gave me the time I needed to study and prepare.”
Army Capt. Nicolas Pacheco, 115th Military Police Company commander, said he’s glad to see his soldier’s hard work pay off.
“He was very passionate and dedicated,” Pacheco said. “We were all proud to see him raise his hand in the first recorded naturalization ceremony in Guantanamo Bay.”
Baptista mentioned two of his former officers who he said were instrumental in encouraging him to pursue his dream of citizenship. Army Maj. Samuel Maldonado and Army Capt. Alex Arroyo “gave a lot of their spare time to help me get everything done properly,” Baptista said.
“They didn’t have to help,” he added, “but I’m glad they did.”
Baptista was given an American flag during the ceremony. The flag, he said, will be safely sent home and respected.
Now that he’s an American citizen, Baptista said, he’s glad he can do things he couldn’t before, such as applying for a security clearance and an American passport and apply to bring more of his family to the country he has called home for most of his life.
“I always felt like something was missing,” Baptista said. “But now that I’m an American citizen, I feel complete.”