Monday, May 23, 2011

47 gain citizenship through military service

Seattle Times
Brittney Wong

Francisco Resendiz enlisted in the U.S. Army three years ago, returning last month from a year in Afghanistan where, as an engineer, he cleared ground and built roads for new troop bases.
He did it all for a country that was not officially his own.

The 29-year-old Resendiz was one of 47 military members who became U.S. citizens at a special Armed Forces Day naturalization ceremony Thursday at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

The new citizens, who were born in 19 different countries, were naturalized through a law that expedites naturalization for military members during a time of armed conflict.

Nearly 70,000 men and women have become citizens through this law since September 2001, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Capt. John Ring, USS Nimitz executive officer, gave the keynote address. He emphasized that the diversity in the room brought new perspectives to armed services and new understanding. He called democracy a combat sport and encouraged the 47 to get involved.

"You now own a piece of prosperity and opportunity shared by the American citizens you have previously sworn to protect," Ring said in his speech.

Laura Oglesvy, 25, had to leave the ceremony early to attend to her fussy 3-month-old son. She came to watch her husband, Juan Del Toro, receive his certificate of naturalization.

"I'm really excited for him," she said while her older son, a 2-year-old, clung to her leg. "It just opens up a lot of opportunities for him regarding his job, everything."

Along with their military service, Del Toro, Resendiz and the other new Americans also needed to fill out an application, take a U.S. history test and talk to an interviewer to be naturalized, but because they're in the armed forces, everything went faster and certain requirements were waived. Some service members are even naturalized while they're not on U.S. soil.

About 25 friends of Resendiz's came to watch the ceremony and cheered loudly when he accepted his certificate. Friend Kelsey Long, 25, filmed the event so his mother in California could see it, too.
"We're very proud of him," Long said. "It means a lot to him."

One of the first things Resendiz intends to do as a citizen is get his passport. He wants to travel, and he's not choosy about the destination.

"I want to see it all," he said. "It's a great world and I want to see it all."

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