Service Members become American Citizens during Veterans Day Weekend Ceremony

by Major Jay Adams
13th SC(E) PAO

LSA Anaconda, Iraq — Proud non-citizen servicemembers raised their right hands and became proud American citizens during a Veterans Day weekend ceremony at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad, Iraq on Nov.12.

Several dignitaries spoke to the almost capacity crowd at LSA Anaconda's Sustainer Theater. Brig. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commanding general of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), delivered the keynote speech.

He told the new citizens that there is probably no other situation or investment, except religion, where a person can give up so little and receive so much more in return.

"Becoming an American can have nothing to do with birth or ancestry," Terry said. "That is because America is an idea, not a race."

Spc. Simon Muturi, a Kenyan who became a U.S. Soldier in 2000, was among those receiving American citizenship. He said he would continue to be a Kenyan at heart, but wanted to be an American.

"America is where it's at," Muturi said. "No other country can give you the opportunities like America can."

Already a momentous occasion, the ceremony was made particularly special by taking place in a combat zone during Veterans Day weekend.

"Just as important as your new citizenship, and just in time for Veterans Day, we honor the fact that you are also Veterans," Terry said.

President George W. Bush, speaking via a videotaped message, congratulated the servicemembers and welcomed them as fellow American citizens.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Dr. Emilio T. Gonzalez said this year marks the 40-year anniversary of his own naturalization ceremony.

Gonzales, speaking during the ceremony, said people are allowed to come into America seamlessly because they don't swear allegiance to a party or person, but an idea.

Gonzales shared his own stories of the opportunities afforded him as an American. He is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army, and in 2005, President Bush appointed him to head the USCIS.

"Only in America do those type of opportunities exist." Gonzales said before he led the candidates in the Oath of Allegiance.

Other dignitaries present included USCIS Rome District Director John M. Bugler, who performed the presentation of candidates, and 13th SC (E) Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Fountain who delivered the opening remarks.

The new citizens include Carlos Arjona, Fernando Avila-Luna, Lorena Ayres, Latifatu Bakare, Benjamin Brito, June-Ray Cadiz, Gustavo Castellanos-Rivera, Luz Adriann Ceballos-Guevara, Ray De La Cruz Sanchez, Juan Delgado-Preciado, Aly Diasse, Kevaughn Edwards, Paul Ernandes, Yaser Essedraoui, Gafatasi Fuimaono, Carlos Gastelu, Maciej Gebala, Nicole Elizabeth Hart, Sok Jin Hong, Bartlomiej Jakowlew, Shilue Johnson, Esteban Leon-Cevallos, Rene Madsen, Kristofferson Marzo, Zayvier Moodie, Simon Muturi, Moonsammy Narinesammy, Oliver Nied, Oscar Ochoa, Kennedy Osara, Tito Parra Fiallo, Alberto Rivera-Jaquez, Angelo Rocha, Jesus Romero, Sergio Sepulveda-Moller, Lester Spence, Preston Suero Delgado, Biel Thiec, Jose Vaca Ramirez, Jorge Vargas, Juan Verduguez Moreno, Dmytro Vilyaykin and Thong Yang.