President Barack Obama listens as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano administers the Oath of Allegiance during a military naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2012. White House Photo by Pete Souza
Having had the privilege and the honor to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization while in the military, I always experience a sensation of pride and déjà vu when I see others follow in the same path.
I became a U.S. citizen at a small ceremony on a “normal working day” some 50 years ago.
What a tremendous emotional feeling it must be to take one’s oath of citizenship on the Fourth of July and before the commander in chief.
Today, 25 U.S. service members must have felt very special pride and honor as they filed through the White House East Room in dress uniforms, proudly displaying their service and sacrifices to America, and took their citizenship oath before their commander in chief.
According to American Forces Press Service, they were among more than 4,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who became U.S. citizens during Independence Day ceremonies also held at U.S. military installations in Kandahar, Afghanistan; Seoul, South Korea; Las Vegas; Miami; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and San Diego.
The President said it brought him “great joy and inspiration” to conduct the ceremony on America’s 236th birthday. “It reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas,” he said.
“As members of our military, you raised your hand and took an oath of service,” he continued. “It is an honor for me to serve as your commander in chief. Today, you raised your hand and have taken an oath of citizenship. And I could not be prouder to be among the first to greet you as ‘my fellow Americans.'”
Obama addressed the service members and their families in a late morning ceremony as White House staff prepared for an evening barbeque for military members and their families that will include viewing the annual Fourth of July fireworks over the Washington Monument.
The president noted various evolutions throughout the nation’s history, and pointed out that what began as “a ragtag army of militias and regulars” has become “the finest military that the world has ever known.”
The service members arrived in America in different ways some as children, and some as adults, Obama noted. “All of you did something profound,” he said. “You chose to serve. You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. In a time of war, some of you deployed into harm’s way. You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July: duty, responsibility and patriotism.”
More than 80,000 U.S. service members have become American citizens since 2001.
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For a video of the ceremony, please go here
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.