Dining Facility Worker Beaming over US Citizenship
February 25, 2009
- Everything good for me. I'm proud to be an American.
- I did expect a different world because the U.S.A.
- 'Where you live'' I say 'Alabama.' She say 'What Alabama''
- She did everything she could to come here and work. If I could, I would pick up 10 people like her.
There's a lot of laughter and merriment in the kitchen of the Dining Facility between meals as the staff works together to prepare the day's menu offerings.
And in the midst of the camaraderie, there's one staff member whose million dollar smile is hard to contain.
The smile on the face of Ruedeeporn "Nuey" Suwanapogdee Hart got even bigger recently when she returned from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Atlanta as a new U.S. citizen.
"Everything good for me. I'm proud to be an American," Hart said in her somewhat broken English.
"I'm happy to be here. It's good opportunity to be here. When I came back from Atlanta, we all cry."
Hart still feels those tears of joy well up inside her when she talks about being a U.S. citizen. Now she feels included as a resident in her adopted country. She feels like she is part of a great nation. And, even as important, she has the ability to come more freely to and from work at the dining facility.
"When I start working here (in August 2006) I have a little bit problem because I'm foreign," she said. "My husband had to drive me to work from where we live. He have to come pick me up. I couldn't get a standard badge and they had to do a background check annually on me."
Don't get her wrong. Hart is not complaining. She understands the reasons for such security measures. But she is also glad she no longer has to rely on her husband to bring her to work at 4 in the morning from their home in Madison.
Hart applied for citizenship last November. She was then given 100 answers and questions to study in preparation for her citizenship test. She went to Atlanta to take the test on Jan. 21.
"For me, it hard because I'm just learning how to speak and read," Hart said. "I had to know things like how many congressmen there are, the national anthem, and what the First Amendment and the Second Amendment are. There were all kind of questions.
"I think I am not going to pass. When in the room with somebody who tests you think you forget. But I went and I pass. My husband was more scared than me when I was in room testing."
It took about 20 minutes for each person to complete testing Jan. 21. The test included answering questions verbally, and writing and reading.
When the testing was over, Hart was sworn in with 145 other aspiring American citizens. Her husband was there to see her take the oath.
"I don't know how everyone felt. But I cried," she said. "My husband got to watch and he was proud."
Hart met her husband, William Hart, eight years ago while he was working for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service in Germany.
"I in Thailand but my sister live in Germany," Hart said. "And my sister knew him.
"He bring me to Germany and meet me. He comes back here and he asked me to come here, too. He make paperwork for me and I wait in Thailand for a year."
Hart arrived in the U.S. March 2001. The couple were married in May of that year. Hart was happy, even though America wasn't as glitzy and glamorous as media images made it look.
"I did expect a different world because the U.S.A. I see only on TV and movies. It's different from that. But I really like it. People really nice," she said.
It was hard for her to describe to her mother, who remained in Thailand and has since died, what her new life was like.
"She ask 'Where you go' Where you live'' I say 'Alabama.' She say 'What Alabama'' They don't know we have 50 states," Hart said.
When she first came to Huntsville, Hart worked in a bagel shop. But later she applied for a job at the Alabama Career Center. Her application was reviewed by Dan Tyree, manager of the dining facility.
"I got a job here. Ta! Da! I think it's small world," Hart said. "There are five other Thai people working here."
At first, the job was overwhelming. But Hart's co-workers were happy to help her.
"There was a lot to learn. People nice here. They give opportunity and help me out. I appreciate them," Hart said.
Hart impressed her boss and co-workers.
"She was wanting to work," Tyree said. "She did everything she could to come here and work. If I could, I would pick up 10 people like her."
Hart returned to work the day after becoming a U.S. citizen. With Tyree's help, she had her new Redstone Arsenal badge in less than 24 hours.
"Everybody here happy for me," Hart said. "It's a relief. I can relax. I really feel good."
Now, with her U.S. citizenship, Hart can do anything. She loves where she works, but has aspirations to be a cook or to go back to school to be an accountant.
"I love here. I love to work here. I love job. I love the people," she said. "It feel good to feed Soldiers because what they do for us. They protect the country."
It's your country, now, Nuey Hart. Welcome.