PEARL HARBOR - More than 110 U.S. immigrants, including two Sailors, gathered at Pearl Harbor Visitors Center to become U.S. citizens, Oct. 12.
Electrician's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Rudy Pablo, assigned to guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), and Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) Fireman (SW) Lester Vender, from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, pledged their allegiance to the United States during a naturalization ceremony presided by U.S. Federal Judge David Ezra.
"I want to welcome you to a ceremony that is a great significance to you and a great significance to the entire country when we admit new citizens as part of our American family," said Ezra. "It's particularly important today that we're here. This is the site of one of America's greatest tragedies and ultimately one of its greatest triumphs."
During the ceremony, Pablo and Verder joined with at least four other uniformed members as they pledge their oath-of-allegiance to the United States of America.
Pablo immigrated from the Republic of the Philippines in 2003. In 2008, he joined the U.S. Navy and submitted his citizenship paperwork in August 2011. Two months later he became a U.S. citizen.
As the only U.S. citizen in his immediate family, Pablo said he would encourage his brother and sister to get their citizenship as well. To his fellow Sailors, he said it was extremely easy.
"Do it," said Pablo. "Navy Legal will help you right away. Just ask, and they will help you, and they will give you all the paper work you need."
Navy Region Hawaii Command Master Chief Marc Sibal served as the keynote speaker during the event. In his speech, he talked about his own immigration experience.
"Millions of people, every day, their goal is to become an American citizen like you this morning. Everyone has a story and every story is unique and always different."
In 1982, Sibal's father encouraged his son to explore the possibility of joining the U.S. Navy through the U.S. Navy Filipino recruiting program. Sibal said the number of candidates for the program was overwhelming. He started with more than 1,200 Filipinos and ended with only 26 selectees on their way to California for Navy recruit training.
Twenty years later, Sibal became a master chief petty officer, and was later named the command master chief (CMC) of U.S. 7th Fleet aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in July 2007. Sibal is the first Filipino-American CMC of 7th Fleet.
"Seek your place in America," said Sibal. "There are a lot of things that you can do to make a difference. Every day Americans are making a difference, not only in the Armed Forces, but also in the civilian world. So now that you are officially American citizens, be that person who goes out there and take on the challenge, because in the end it's all about this country we now call home. It's a country that we are going to serve from here on out, whether you're in the military or as a civilian."