The scene took place in Baghdad on the Fourth of July. His temperature was high, his pulse was throbbing, and he felt faint.

"Something was filling up inside me," said Pfc. Hyoung Oh. "I thought my heart was going to explode."

The Soldier, a supply clerk in Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, an Incheon, South Korea, native, wondered how he had found himself in this position.

Oh knew he was going to become a citizen that day, but he had no idea the ceremony would be presided over by the United States Vice President.

"[VP Joe Biden] really surprised us. He made it a day I will never forget," Oh said. "I was on cloud nine."

The elation Oh felt at his naturalization ceremony was countered by the intense pressure he felt to get this once-in-a-lifetime event right. It was a simple process: walk to the established mark, shake right, receive left, turn, smile, wait for the "click," and repeat. This only appeared simple to those in attendance. The process of becoming an American had been anything but simple.

When Oh was a child living in Seoul, his parents decided to relocate to the United States. His uncle, already a U.S. citizen, applied to sponsor the Oh family. Due to the huge backlog of cases and the immediacy of the Ohs situation, they took matters into their own hands. At 14 years old, the family attempted to illegally cross the border into the United States from Mexico, where his family had migrated. Oh and his mother were caught by San Diego border authorities, while his father and sister made it into the U.S.

"I remember my mother, sister and I climbing mountains with Mexicans for an entire day," Oh said.

Oh and his mother found themselves at a San Diego police station to be investigated. Since laws were less stringent and the border situation less tense than today, Oh and his mother were released to their cousins, who took them to Los Angeles to link up with Oh's father who had already arrived.

A few years after his entry into the United States, Oh received permanent resident alien status and, after graduating from high school, went full-time into the Korean restaurant business. After ten years of serving bulgogi and kimchi, Oh decided he wanted to serve people in a different capacity. In 2009, Oh, who was then the restaurant manager, enlisted in the Army.

Several days prior to his current deployment to Iraq, Oh decided he wanted to serve a country he could call his own, rather than just a place he was living in. Upon making this decision, he took full advantage of a Fort Carson, Colo., Army Community Service program designed to assist Soldiers and Families with the immigration process.

Executive Order 13269 applications from active duty service members are expedited and Oh's application took slightly over three months to be approved.

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