FORT CARSON, Colo. - Twenty-one Soldiers and Family members pledged their allegiance to the United States during a citizenship ceremony July 29 that also recognized a fallen hero's dream of becoming an American.
The ceremony concluded the Fort Carson Army Community Service's 45th birthday celebration by presenting certificates of citizenship to Soldiers and Family members representing 16 nations and honoring Pfc. J.R. Salvacion, who was killed in Afghanistan Feb. 21 while serving with 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who received citizenship posthumously.
Sgt. Dannisha Thompson, 230th Finance Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, was looking forward to calling her family to tell them the news.
"Today means a lot to me, becoming a citizen," said Thompson, originally from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines. "I'm the last of my family to become a U.S. citizen ... they are going to be so excited when
I call home and say I (was) sworn in. It's been a great day; I am very excited."
Inspired by television commercials while growing up in El Salvador, Spc. Francisco Hernandez dreamed of following in his father's footsteps and serving in the military. He came to the U.S. with his mother in 1997 and joined the Army in 2008.
"I am excited to be a U.S. citizen and I am really thankful to this country for everything it has done. I am happy to be in the military and serve my country," he said.
ACS Director Patricia Randle said it was fitting to conclude the festivities with a naturalization ceremony that celebrates this year's theme - Army Community Service Around the World. Helping immigrants serving in the military gain citizenship has been a part of the Relocation Readiness Program since its inception, but Randle raved about ACS' partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Denver Field Office 18 months ago to streamline the process. She said in the past, applicants would have to drive back and forth to Denver - sometimes four or five times - to provide necessary paperwork, take the citizenship test and then finally return to receive their certificate of citizenship.
"We now have the ceremonies the same day they take the test," Randle said. "That's just been so beneficial ... it takes less time away from the mission."
Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera shared his family's immigration story with the new citizens, telling them about his mother leaving Mexico nearly 60 years ago to answer the call for nurses needed in San Antonio to replace those who traveled to provide medical care to the Soldiers fighting in Korea.
"Let the people of this country learn from you (and) your culture so that we all will be enriched by it," Rivera said. "You must pass on to those who come after you, not just the stories, but also the trials you faced as you worked to gain a new life here in America."
He said Soldiers know better "than anyone else in this great country" what it means to fight for freedom, their Families and fellow countrymen.
"You've made sacrifices that make this nation a beacon of hope around the world," he said. "I want to thank you for your service. I will never forget your courage, your bravery and your sacrifice."
Fort Carson's immigration services coordinator said she is humbled to be a part of the process.
"To see Soldiers and Family members gain their citizenship after months of working with them is extremely rewarding," said Kate McNeely.
She noted it took Spc. William Hahn, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment,
4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div., from South Africa, about five years to complete the process as military transfers and deployments caused delays.
"That a Soldier would be that motivated after that many years to continue the process and trust in my office to help is really inspiring," she said.
The ACS staff assists active-duty servicemembers and their Families, retirees and reservists with the naturalization process. For more information, contact McNeely at 526-0457 or e-mail

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