More than 30 Sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) became U.S. citizens aboard the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum June 2 during the largest military naturalization ceremony in American history.
During the ceremony held on the ship-turned-museum's flight deck, nearly 300 enlisted servicemen and women from all branches of the U.S. military were sworn in as naturalized citizens, breaking the record set last year when Vice President Joe Biden swore in 237 servicemembers deployed to Iraq.
The ceremony featured several prominent speakers, including Navy Vice Adm. D. C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces and Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific; and Marine Corps. Col. Nicholas Marano, Commandant of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
"You are all now members of the greatest civil society in history," said Morano to the newly appointed citizens. "You now have a personal stake in it. Its future is now your future and your family's future as well."
Foreign-born men and women serving in the U.S. armed services may apply for naturalization after one year of service, be a lawful permanent resident, and apply for citizenship while still on active duty or within six months of separation.
Boxer itself, which had been underway since June 30, made its way through the channel into San Diego Harbor as the servicemembers were being sworn in, giving the crew the opportunity to man the rails and render honors to its newest citizens.
“It really meant a lot to me that Boxer made it through for the ceremony,” said Religious Programs Specialist Seaman Maricris Valdez, a Boxer Sailor originally from the Republic of the Philippines who was sworn in during the ceremony. “I felt like even though they weren’t physically on the ship with me, they were still there to support me.”
Also during the ceremony, the regional director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, Carolyn Muzyka, presented the “Outstanding American by Choice” award to Hungarian-born, Medal of Honor recipient Tibor Rubin, a Mauthausen concentration camp survivor who was naturalized as an American citizen during service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
The ceremony also featured an interpretive performance of “Victory at Sea” by members of the San Diego Ballet, and several musical performances by the Sounds of Freedom Choir and the U.S. Navy Region Southwest Band.