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Martin Ulsano, 7, raises his hand during the oath of citizenship while standing next to his father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano, at a ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base Friday. Ulsano became the first child to receive a certificate of citizenship under a 2008 law designed for family members of overseas servicemembers. In all, 72 Marines, sailors, soldiers and family members celebrated their citizenship Friday.
Martin Ulsano, 7, raises his hand during the oath of citizenship while standing next to his father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano, at a ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base Friday. Ulsano became the first child to receive a certificate of citizenship under a 2008 law designed for family members of overseas servicemembers. In all, 72 Marines, sailors, soldiers and family members celebrated their citizenship Friday. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Martin Ulsano, 7, raises his hand during the oath of citizenship while standing next to his father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano, at a ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base Friday. Ulsano became the first child to receive a certificate of citizenship under a 2008 law designed for family members of overseas servicemembers. In all, 72 Marines, sailors, soldiers and family members celebrated their citizenship Friday.
Martin Ulsano, 7, raises his hand during the oath of citizenship while standing next to his father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano, at a ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base Friday. Ulsano became the first child to receive a certificate of citizenship under a 2008 law designed for family members of overseas servicemembers. In all, 72 Marines, sailors, soldiers and family members celebrated their citizenship Friday. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Martin Ulsano poses with servicemembers and spouses who received their certificates of naturalization. Also in the group is U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires James P. Zumwalt.
Martin Ulsano poses with servicemembers and spouses who received their certificates of naturalization. Also in the group is U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires James P. Zumwalt. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Martin Ulsano stands with U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires James P. Zumwalt, who's about to cut a cake honoring the new citizens.
Martin Ulsano stands with U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires James P. Zumwalt, who's about to cut a cake honoring the new citizens. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The most noticeable of the 72 people with hands raised for the U.S. oath of citizenship Friday stood barely higher than the pews Friday at Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope.

Martin Miles Ulsano, 7, became the first child to take the oath since the 2008 Defense Authorization Act allowed family members of servicemembers to become citizens overseas, according to officials.

Ulsano was born on Yokosuka Naval Base and already had the right to citizenship, said his father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano. However, making it official is important to the family, he said.

"He’s been raised in American ways his whole life," said Caesar Ulsano, a Filipino-American who became naturalized in 2004 and is now based with the USS Harpers Ferry at Sasebo Naval Base after previous tours at Yokosuka.

Martin’s mother, Eugeline, also is processing paperwork to become a citizen.

The ceremony included active-duty Marines, sailors and soldiers alongside Ulsano and nine spouses.

The boy and spouses are among a growing number of military family members seeking citizenship, said Kenneth Sherman, field director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Seoul, which oversees South Korea and Japan.

About 30 or 40 family members were naturalized overseas during the last fiscal year, said Sherman, who thinks that figure might triple or even quadruple this year.

"We should try to offer as much protection to military families as we can … and we do that when we bring them underneath the umbrella of citizenship," Sherman said.

Those interested in servicemember and military family naturalization can go to www.uscis.gov/military, or ask their unit’s citizenship representative.

Once paperwork is filed to the Nebraska Service Center, the citizenship process is now taking as little as four months for overseas military applicants, Sherman said.

Although individual circumstances and deployments can lengthen the process, that’s between two and four months faster on average than last year, Sherman said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Cooper, originally of the Philippines and serving aboard the USS Lassen, said he finished his paperwork, civics exam and interview to become a citizen Friday after applying in October.

"I didn’t expect to be here so early," Cooper said. "I know people in the U.S., not in the military, who have been waiting three to five years."

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