Service Members Become Citizens
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (AW/SW) Christine Walker-Singh
SAN DIEGO – More than 50 service members recited the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego., May 24.

Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Vice Adm. Richard Hunt was in attendance at the ceremony where several Sailors, Marines, Airmen and one Soldier officially became U.S. citizens.

The ceremony is a result of the Department of Defense working with members of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to implement opportunities for service members to expedite their process toward becoming citizens.

“One of the great things about the Armed Services’ naturalization process,” said Army Pvt. Joel Yap, with the 1498th Transportation Company, California Army National Guard, “Is that you can almost get your citizenship immediately.”

According to Yap’s aunt, Construction Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ana Yap, with Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303, the benefits of the program do not just apply to individuals seeking citizenship.

“The naturalization process offers the military more diversity, and some individuals that actually have more of a willingness to serve the country they’ve pledged their allegiance to,” said Yap, who was in attendance to support her nephew, three years after obtaining her own citizenship the same way as a Seabee.

It’s a sentiment that other service members also noted during the ceremony.

“Diversity is a key strength of America and our military,” said Hunt. “Standing before us are service members from more than 23 different countries and the capabilities they bring to our military are staggering. Becoming U.S. citizens after years of hard work and dedication, far surpasses what most native-born Americans have undertaken.”

Besides offering the opportunity of more diversity, the program also increases the capabilities of the Department of Defense’s workforce by equipping its personnel with the tools they need to perform their jobs in the Armed Forces.

“Citizenship wasn’t something I was really considering applying for at first,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jialong Wang, with Marine Light Attack Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303. “Then I began thinking about joining security forces and realized that naturalization would help if I needed a clearance.”

According to Hunt, obtaining citizenship after serving your country is not a novel idea and is in fact an integral part of our country’s history.

“You were patriots long before you became citizens,” said Hunt, to the new citizens. “Because of your military service, your story is very much aligned with our founding fathers—another group of Americans who were also patriots long before they were citizens. What matters is your belief in American ideals, laws and the desire to contribute to the common good. You have shown your dedication to this country, in the most honorable way possible.”

After the ceremony, the new citizens were given the chance to register to vote and apply for passports. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 43,000 members of the Armed Forces have obtained citizenship while serving.
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