Forty U.S. soldiers earn their American citizenship
July 9, 2007
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Some came from impoverished conditions. Some fled wars. Some entered the United States illegally.
But they all had volunteered to serve a country that was not their own — until Friday.
Forty soldiers took oaths of U.S. citizenship during an hour-long ceremony at the U.S. Embassy club on Yongsan Garrison.
“It was a long, hard journey,” said Pfc. Sharon Samuel, originally from Trinidad and Tobago. “It’s a beautiful day.”
The event was the last in a series of six naturalization ceremonies for overseas U.S. troops that took place around the world during Independence Day week.
“Until two years ago, no naturalization ceremonies could be conducted outside the U.S.,” said Robert Looney, a State Department official from Bangkok who officiated.
Lt. Gen. David Valcourt, 8th U.S. Army commander, was on hand to give each new citizen a $1 bill, explaining the imagery, history and design of the bills.
“It was my honor as a commander to present you with your first dollar bill as American citizens,” Valcourt said. “I hope you remember this as an unusual ceremony this morning. The speaker actually paid you to be quiet and listen.”
The candidates recited the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Oath of Allegiance then received their naturalization certificates.
Many said becoming a U.S. citizen was the realization of a lifelong dream.
“I’ve always wanted to be an American,” said Sgt. Jerome Gibson, who came from Liberia after fleeing a civil war in 1994. “It’s all about opportunity. I can see so many doors opening to eventually becoming somebody in the future. Being a citizen will do that for me.”
Samuel also said opportunities citizenship affords her and her four children were what appealed most about becoming a U.S. citizen.
“When you work hard and sacrifice you actually see results in America, as opposed to Trinidad and Tobago.”
Others saw gaining their citizenship as a way to become more integrated into their adopted homeland.
“I made money. I paid taxes. But I still felt like an outsider — a free rider,” said Spc. In-sook Davis, who joined the Army one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. “I want to be part of America.”
The names and countries of origin of soldiers who became U.S. citizens during a ceremony Friday at the U.S. Embassy club on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul: