Story by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV
Joint Base Lewis-McChord held its 7th annual Naturalization Ceremony welcoming immigrant service members as U.S. citizens Nov. 7.
The ceremony grants citizenship to service members who are in the armed forces and have met the minimum time-in-service requirement.
“We hold the ceremony the Friday before Veterans Day every year,” said Monica Ulibarri, Relocation Readiness Program manager for the Armed Forces Community Service. “It’s a duty my predecessors held and it’s just fitting the relocation program takes charge of it.”
Nine servicemembers from all branches and multiple countries came to take the oath and become full fledged United States citizens.
“I was indecisive about citizenship for some time,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Bogar Baca, from El Paso, Texas, assigned to the “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142. “After six years of faithful service, I had to do it. I had to become a US citizen, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and pride as I accept my citizenship.”
Friends and family stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance with their newly naturalizied servicemembers for the first time as American citizens.
“My wife and son are American citizens, so I know where home is,” said Army Private Diego Arciniegas, from Pico Ribera, Calif., assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 504, 42nd Military Police Brigade. “By becoming a citizen, I can further my duty and ability for our country.”
The guest speaker for the ceremony, Chief Navy Counselor Jean-Hero Lamy, from Miami, assigned to Navy Region Northwest, was also a prior immigrant turned US citizen.
“I feel honored and priveleged to speak for such an important ceremony,”said Lamy. “ Twenty-one years ago when I came to this country from Haiti, I never thought I would be welcoming new citizens to our country.”
It was only fitting to be welcomed to the country as a citizen by the base commander.
“We are a nation of immigrants, anytime we have the ability to increase our number of citizens it makes us stronger as a country,” said Army Colonel Chuck Hodges, from Tallahassee, Fla., Joint Base Lewis-McChord Commander. “Folks from all over the world are now [U.S.] citizens; I look forward to this every year.”
With smiles and handshakes, the ceremony concluded.
“I feel awesome now that I’m an American citizen,” said Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic (Safety Equipment) Airman Christianson Guzman, from the Republic of the Phillipines, assigned to the “Worldwatchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ)1. “I truly feel like a part of this country.”