FORT CARSON, Colo.---March 18 began new chapters in the lives of four immigrants who swore their allegiance to the United States during the monthly naturalization ceremony held at Army Community Service.

Spc. Sheila Aguilar, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; Spc. Vijayta Waskul, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div.; Pvt. Armando Sierra, 4th Engineer Battalion; and Family member Julia Gomez sang the national anthem, took the oath of citizenship and recited the Pledge of Allegiance prior to being issued their certificates of naturalization.

"(Becoming a U.S. citizen) really means a lot to me," said Aguilar, a 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Soldier born in the Philippines. "I've been wanting it for so long ... I'm just proud to be an American citizen."

"Its incredible any time a Soldier can gain citizenship ... they get that right to vote," said Kate McNeely, Fort Carson immigration services coordinator. "As Americans, it's so important to have a say in the future of the country that you live in."

Sierra and his wife, Aleene, agreed that the right to vote was one of the highlights of becoming a citizen - a day the couple had been looking forward to for more than five years.

"It's been a journey, but it's very important because ... he (now is) able to participate in significant events like voting," she said.

Armando, from Honduras, said he is thankful the Constitution protects U.S. citizens' right to freedom of religion.

"I believe everybody ... should have the rights to worship and to be free," he said.

Waskul said she left the male-dominated country of Fiji when she was 19 to pursue an education. She moved to Hawaii and then to Colorado where she applied for permanent residency. She postponed becoming a U.S. citizen about a year so that she could become a Soldier first.

"I have said the Pledge of Allegiance so many times (teaching first-graders the words) ...
But it really had a whole different meaning (today)," Waskul said. "I'm just proud to be part of (the Army) and (to) say I am an American ... it's just incredible."

William Winfield, adjudication officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Denver field office, who administered the oath of citizenship, congratulated the four on becoming American citizens and encouraged them to share their story with future generations.

"Each of you has a story to tell ... a story that involves risk, courage and a story of hope," he said. "I hope that you share this story with your children and your children's children so it won't be forgotten."

McNeely visits with Soldiers wishing to become U.S. citizens to assess their issues and then assists them in putting their application packages together, ensuring they have everything in order. She said she has a direct link with the Denver field office, which expedites the process for active-duty servicemembers.

Once the process is completed, which McNeely said usually takes about three months, the applicants are called in for a morning interview with an Immigration and Naturalization Service counselor and then take a naturalization test in the afternoon. She said the applicants have to pass the naturalization exam - an oral exam consisting of up to 10 questions on history, government and geography pulled from a list of 100 questions in the study guide - and demonstrate they can read and write English.

The ACS staff assists active-duty servicemembers and their Families, retirees and Reservists with the naturalization process.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16