28 servicemembers become U.S. citizens in ceremony at Vogelweh

A cake congratulating 28 newly-naturalized U.S. citizens, all servicemembers, is cut Wednesday after a ceremony in Vogelweh, Germany.


By MARNI MCENTEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 7, 2004

VOGELWEH, Germany — In one of the first naturalization ceremonies overseas, 28 servicemembers became U.S. citizens Wednesday after raising their right hands and pledging allegiance to their adopted country.

Among them were immigrants from around the globe — Peru, Poland, Ukraine, South Korea, Bangladesh and Germany. Some joined the U.S. military years ago. Many were relative newcomers to this country and to its armed services.

All solidified their commitment to the United States by becoming full-fledged citizens.

“It feels great to be an American,” said Spc. Md Rabbi Alam, 30, who came to the United States from Khulna, Bangladesh, in 2000, and enlisted in the Army the same year.

“I was downrange and fighting, and now I feel like I did something for my country. Everything I did, I did for my country and the Army,” he said.

Alam served in Iraq in 2003, at Baghdad International Airport, as part of Battery D, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery out of Ansbach, Germany.

The Kaiserslautern event is the third overseas military naturalization ceremony held for servicemembers.

Last November, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2004, which amended portions of the Immigration and Nationality section to allow for overseas military naturalization ceremonies. Before Oct. 1, military members could only naturalize while in the United States.

During the past year, 9,000 military members became U.S. citizens. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1.5 million people have become naturalized U.S. citizens.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Eduardo Aguirre Jr. presided over the two other overseas ceremonies, naturalizing 17 soldiers in Afghanistan and 34 more in Iraq, before heading the event in Vogelweh.

Similar ceremonies will take place Oct. 14 in Seoul, South Korea, and Oct. 18 in Tokyo.

“Words cannot capture your country’s gratitude for your service,” said Aguirre, also a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from Havana, when he was 15. “Today you become full partners in the American family.”

Pfc. Jorge Latorre, 22, dreamed of coming to the United States from his native Peru since he was a child. But he didn’t join his father in Boston until 2002. The next year, he joined the Army and now is a member of 1st Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Armored Division from Büdingen, Germany.

“I feel really, really happy and very proud of all the things I did to try to get citizenship,” Latorre said. “It’s a great honor to become a U.S. citizen. Now, I have more possibilities to do more for my country.”

Spc. Winnie Moore, 30, of Trinidad and Tobago, has been in the United States for 18 years. She belongs to the 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, and recently returned from duty at several bases in Iraq.

“During the ceremony, I was trying to hold my tears,” Moore said. Her two children, Lenise, 10, and Deron, 6, clutched tiny American flags during the ceremony.

Weiden, Germany, resident Sgt. Wilma Allen, 33, of the 21st Theater Support Command’s 68th Transportation Company, summed up her feelings in one word: “Finally.”

The new citizens ...

Twenty-eight active-duty servicemembers became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Vogelweh, Germany:

Petty Officer 3rd Class Mikelle Aaron

Spc. Md Rabbi Alam

Sgt. Wilma Allen

Spc. Michal Balasinowicz

Sgt. 1st Class Humberto Barrett

Sgt. Ruben Colon Jr.

Spc. Israel de la Cruz

Sgt. Nancy Elliott

Sgt. Dale Holder

Pvt. Ji Ho Kim

Pfc. Jorge Latorre

Sgt. John Taylor Lavery

Sgt. Kenia Montano

Spc. Winnie Moore

Spc. Marsha Mullings Foster

Spc. Aleksey Myastkovskiy

Spc. Nicolay Myastkovskiy

Sgt. Joane Noel

Spc. Jonathan Ochoa

Pvt. Pablo Pena Navarro

Spc. Yogesh Pillai

Spc. Bohdan Pryakhin

Spc. Domingo Reyes Ramirez

Spc. Cassandra Rodriguez de Arvizu

Spc. Venasio Sele

Spc. Andrey Skroznikov

Spc. Loan Tran

Spc. Mengistu Wolokolie

Spc. Michal Balasinowicz, left, shows his friends his certificate of U.S. citizenship after a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Germany. Balasinowicz, a Polish immigrant, was among 28 servicemembers naturalized during the event.

from around the web