Service Members Pledge Oath of Allegiance during Seattle Seafair Fleet Week
PUGET SOUND, Wash. - Seventeen active duty service members took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on board the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).
The ceremony was held during the parade of ships for the 63rd annual Seattle Seafair Fleet Week.
"Today, we had a wonderful ceremony," said Sharon Rummery, from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). "We gave them the honor of becoming U.S. citizens, something they so richly deserve."
Rummery said the Sailors have a special kind of courage to be able and ready to step up and put their lives at risk for a country that was not even their own yet.
Before being eligible for citizenship, all non-citizen service members who apply must be able to demonstrate good moral character, have no criminal record, speak English, demonstrate knowledge of the U.S. government and history, and take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.
"It's a very good thing for anyone to become a citizen because they can vote, they can re-unify their family, they can travel with ease on the American passport, and they can qualify for better jobs," said Rummery. "So, we shared a very valuable gift that our country bestows to the deserving today."
The new citizens originated from 13 different countries from various regions around the globe including Brazil, Canada, Finland, Nigeria, and Taiwan.
Airman Indira Tapias, from Columbia, assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 139, said it felt very good to obtain her citizenship and doing this was significant to her for two reasons.
"It's very important for my job, for what we do," said Tapias. "And two, it's important to have my citizenship to be able to do something as simple as voting, and I definitely want to be able to take part in things like that."
She said becoming a U.S. citizen was always on her mind and never something she really debated.
"It was always, 'I'm going to be a citizen regardless,'" said Tapias. "Now, that I'm serving this country why not be a citizen if I'm serving for it."
Becoming a citizen can potentially be a long process with no guarantee that citizenship will be granted. Typically, the process for becoming naturalized and obtaining a green card takes a minimum wait of five years to be eligible to apply. Those who get married to a U.S. citizen must wait a minimum of three years, said Rummery. However, they are immediately eligible as a member serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
"Just the process itself is easier, you're not as worried or stressed about it," said Tapias. "It's a simpler, faster process. I feel very accomplished, for one, it seemed at first like a very farfetched goal for a lot of people, but I'm happy to say that I was able to make it here."
According to USCIS, more than 68,000 service members have been granted their U.S. citizenship since September 2001.]