U.S. Soldiers Serving in Afghanistan Become American Citizens
By Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon, USA
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, July 5, 2006 Twenty-seven U.S. soldiers serving on the front lines of the war on terror in Afghanistan became the newest American citizens here yesterday during a special Independence Day overseas military naturalization ceremony here.
Army Pvt. 1st Class Joyce Nanquil (front row, second from right), recites the oath of allegiance during a special July 4 naturalization ceremony at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Nanquil, assigned to Company E, 310th Aviation Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, and a native of the Philippines, was one of 27 U.S. soldiers serving on the front lines of the war on terror in Afghanistan who took the Oath of Allegiance on America's 230th birthday. Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"There are soldiers from 17 different countries who will be taking the oath of allegiance on America's 230th birthday," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the coalition Joint Task Force 76 commander. "Today, these fine soldiers will be unified as Americans."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducted more than 150 of the July 4 ceremonies for more 18,000 men, women and children in the United States and members of the military serving overseas.
Freakley said the ceremony here was significant because of the soldiers' service to the United States of America.
"The soldiers here who are about to become citizens already understand they have a unique responsibility, and that is the defense of the nation," he said. "The citizen who is a soldier has to do more for the nation than other citizens, because the citizens of America count on (them) to defend her and make sure that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are guaranteed for all Americans. Thousands of immigrant soldiers are making extraordinary sacrifices for America in the war on terror."
Army Pvt. 1st Class Joyce Nanquil, originally from the Philippines, knows well the responsibilities of American soldiers. As she took the oath of allegiance here, her brother, Army Spc. Alfer Nanquil, simultaneously took the oath while serving in Iraq.
"It's really amazing that my brother and I are getting our citizenship on the same day," said Nanquil, whose hometown is now Temecula, Calif. "I feel so proud that I can't even begin to explain it. It's a really good day today."
Due to recent changes in the laws governing U.S. citizenship, the application process is expedited for legal, permanent residents serving in the U.S. military during times of hostilities. Also, naturalization ceremonies can be held overseas for U.S. servicemembers. This made the day even more special for Army Spc. Ahmed John, a native of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
John said he has dreamed of becoming an American citizen since he and his family moved to the U.S. when he was 10.
"I have had dreams of being a citizen since I was a 10-year-old boy living in Afghanistan," John said. "I feel great to be an American citizen."
His current deployment here with the U.S. Army was his first return trip to Afghanistan since he immigrated to the United States. Returning to Afghanistan holds a double meaning for him.
"I came back to Afghanistan to protect my native land and also to defend my homeland -- the United States of America," John said. "The United States has offered me so many opportunities I would not have had anywhere else, so I would not hesitate to give my life for my new country. I love the United States."
Moments before raising their right hands and reciting the Oath of Allegiance, each of the soldiers received praise from Freakley for their service in the war on terror.
"We are a nation of immigrants," Freakley said. "Very few of us are actually indigenous to the United States of America. Since July of 2002, nearly 20,000 military personnel serving in the global war on terror have become U.S. citizens. As a nation that gives to others, we also like our citizens to be part of that ethic of giving to others. Clearly you are already demonstrating that by serving your nation in uniform. I wish you prosperity, health and happiness as Americans, and I hope that you will contribute to the nation, as you are already, throughout your entire life."
(Army Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon is assigned to the 345th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)