Two Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment can finally claim the rights and responsibilities of citizens of the country they've been defending in uniform.

Spc. Rami Assaf of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop and Staff Sgt. Fabrizio Bustos of C Troop became U.S. citizens in a mass naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 27, along with more than 7,000 other people from more than 120 countries, including service members from other branches of the military.

"It's a great honor," Assaf said. "(Citizenship) opens a lot more doors for me."

Assaf, whose mother is Pakistani and father is Syrian, grew up in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, until his family moved to the U.S. for better educational opportunities when he was 12. He has served in the Army for three years. Even though he wasn't a citizen, serving in the U.S. military was a longtime goal, Assaf said.

"It's something I wanted to do for a long time, to give back to the country that let me in," he said. "I'm the last one in my family here to become a citizen."

Unbeknownst to either Assaf or Bustos, who were both assigned to C Troop, 1/11 until this month, they were pursuing the same goal at the same time. While Assaf was preparing for this citizenship test, Bustos had also decided to become a citizen. A native of Chile, Bustos came to the U.S. with his family when he was 7, and split his childhood between Long Island, N.Y., and Chile. Bustos said he was inspired to join the Army after losing two friends in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. He has served for nine years.

"I figured if I became a citizen, I'd have a lot more opportunities," Bustos said.

Both Soldiers agreed that becoming citizens together made the experience more meaningful.

Page last updated Fri August 10th, 2012 at 11:53