KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Before they were married, Spc. Reni Johnson and his wife Claudia decided they were going to become U.S. citizens.

Several years later, and more than 8,000 miles apart, their dream had came true.

Johnson, a deployed Soldier with the 31st Combat Support Hospital and a native of Jamaica, took the United States Oath of Allegiance, along with 87 other servicemembers, and became a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony, Oct. 1 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

His wife, a native of Mexico, received her citizenship just six days prior at their home duty station at Fort Bliss, Texas.

"It's a true new beginning," said Johnson. "Not just for us, but for our kids. We can now provide for them in a much better way."

Johnson said that one of the driving factors for him becoming a citizen was the birth of his youngest son. There was a complication during his birth, and the umbilical cord had wrapped around his son's neck three times. The child almost died, but thanks to quick work from the doctors the problem was solved and Johnson's son was born perfectly healthy.

"That was a blessing," said Johnson. "It pushed me to become a citizen even more, especially because I'm so far away from my family. I'm out here putting my life on the line to protect my family already; I might as well go all the way and become a citizen. "

Johnson called his wife to tell her the good news the next day. He sat with a huge smile on his face, in the call center at Kandahar Airfield, as the phone rang.

"I got my citizenship," Johnson told her. "This opens doors to so many opportunities for us. We can finally provide for our children in new ways."

He went on to tell her about all of the little differences this would make in their lives. He told her that their children wouldn't need to worry about all the same things they did growing up. But, most importantly, he told her that she was there with him the entire time.

The previous day, Johnson went to the naturalization ceremony with a photo of his wife and children stored in the pocket closest to his heart.

He said he brought them there in spirit, so as he raised his right hand and walked across the stage, they could be there with him, even though they were really 8,000 miles apart.

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