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Face of Defense: Field Artillery Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen in Baghdad

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2008 – Army Spc. Pastor Paul Durano, originally from the Philippines, joined the ranks of his comrades and became an American citizen during a naturalization ceremony here earlier this month.

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Army Spc. Pastor Paul Durano became an American Citizen in Baghdad’s Al Faw Palace on April 12, 2008. Durano, a native of Cubu City, Philippines, assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, participated in a naturalization ceremony for 259 deployed soldiers. Courtesy photo

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

Durano, a member of 10th Mountain Division’s Headquarters and Headquarter Battery, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, participated in a mass naturalization ceremony at Al Faw Palace, at Camp Victory here, April 12.

Born and raised in Cubu City, Philippines, Durano lived as a farmer, helping with the family business before he left for the United States in 2004 and settled in New Jersey. While working in a hospital, he met his future wife, who is a nurse. After three years in America, he decided to join the Army.

Durano is the first member of his family to become a U.S. citizen. He takes a lot of pride in being an American citizen but said he also feels a tremendous responsibility.

“It’s a bigger responsibility, and it’s good to be a part of America instead of just [being] a green-card holder,” Durano said. He quoted former President John F. Kennedy, who told Americans to: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Durano took that quote seriously when he joined the Army and said he strives to live up to those words. He didn’t join the Army just to become an American. He could have gained citizenship through marriage, because his wife is a U.S. citizen.

He has four children living in the Philippines whom he plans to bring to the United States before the end of next year. As a U.S. citizen, he also can petition on behalf of other family members for U.S. citizenship.

The decision to leave his former country and home of 35 years was not an easy one. Durano said he found it hard to come to a new home with a different culture. Leaving behind family members and others who formed his personal support structure was extremely difficult, he added.

Durano had to go through an interview process the day before the palace ceremony. He was nervous because of the importance this interview would have on his life and future, he explained.

Durano began the naturalization process in June, when he first arrived at Fort Polk, La. About six months ago, he received a message he would be getting his citizenship in Iraq with other deployed soldiers.

The naturalization ceremony was a great experience for Durano. One of the high points was having the ceremony in an Iraqi palace. Durano wasn’t alone, as 259 soldiers from 71 countries took the oath to become American citizens.

Durano’s comrades and leaders are happy for him becoming the newest U.S. citizen in the unit. It was a great move and well deserved, said Capt. Jerald Ferguson, logistics officer for 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery.“[It] seems like he knows more about the United States than I do,” Ferguson, a Rosepine, La., native, said with a laugh.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Scottie Williams, personnel services noncommissioned officer in charge, accompanied Durano to the naturalization ceremony and helped him become an American citizen. Williams said he was ecstatic about his soldier’s accomplishment.

“It was a pretty great thing,” Williams said. “There was one guy who was born in Baghdad and another from Sudan who went through a lot of turmoil in their lives. And to actually see the soldiers go through that process and become U.S. citizens is pretty great to see.”

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen was a long one for Durano, one he will not likely take for granted anytime soon. “It took me 39 years to become an American citizen, but I’m very happy about it,” he said, adding that he lists becoming an American citizen as one of his best achievements.

(Army Spc. Grant T. Okubo is assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers assemble in Al Faw Palace, in Baghdad, for a naturalization ceremony April 12, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Pastor Paul Durano  
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