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Face of Defense: Deployed Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen

By Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Julie Brummund
Task Force White Eagle

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 16, 2011 – Members of the provincial reconstruction team here welcomed their newest American citizen May 5 with a party dubbed “Cinco de Santos.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Rafael Santos of the Massachusetts National Guard, right, receives a flag flown over Forward Operating Base Ghazni, Afghanistan, from his platoon leader, Army 1st Lt. Mike Mondello, center, and his platoon sergeant, Army Staff Sgt. Mike Burnes, at a May 5, 2011, celebration welcoming him back to his unit as a new American citizen. The soldiers are security forces members for the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Julie Brummund

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

Army Spc. Rafael Santos from the Massachusetts National Guard’s 1st Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, returned recently from Kandahar, where he took his citizenship exam and then took part in a citizenship oath ceremony along with about 75 other new citizens.

A native of Brazil, Santos moved to the United States 10 years ago with his parents. A cousin, Army Spc. Marcelo Gomes, is serving on this deployment with him. Both men now call Marlboro, Mass., home.

Normally, a naturalization applicant must be a lawful permanent resident in the United States for five years immediately preceding their application, but for members of the U.S. military, that time is reduced to one year. For service members serving during a time of declared hostilities, there is no such requirement. They simply must have served honorably in active-duty status for any period of time; however, should they be discharged under other than honorable conditions, their citizenship may be revoked.

Military members still are required to take an exam demonstrating knowledge of U.S. government and history and pass an interview with an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent.

“I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect, but the people in Kandahar were really nice,” Santos said. “I went there a little early to study the questions. The test was pretty easy; I knew most of it already from college. I’m happy, and now I’m out here serving my country.”

Santos, who is studying business administration and accounting, was three years into his college career when he was called upon to serve on this deployment.


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