By Amy L. Bugala, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsMarch 6, 2009
HONOLULU - Approximately 50 foreign citizens took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony here, Feb. 23; among them was U.S. Soldier and Nigerian, Spc. Oluseyi Olajire.
For Olajire, 35, a petroleum supply specialist, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, one word summed up his life-changing experience that morning - opportunity, for himself and his family.
"Becoming a U.S. citizen means freedom and an opportunity to be a part of history," he said.
Olajire explained how learning about American history influenced him while growing up in Lagos, Nigeria.
"I didn't know any Americans when I was young, but I learned about some extraordinary African-Americans while in school, like Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Garvey, Jesse Jackson," he said.
Olajire said becoming an American citizen has been his dream for many years. He said as soon as he was able to appreciate the benefits and opportunities he could have as a citizen, he pursued becoming naturalized.
He enlisted in the Army in 2008 and willingly took the oath and responsibility "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States" as an immigrant Soldier. After enlisting, he started the naturalization process as soon as possible and then deployed to Iraq. For him, protecting and defending the U.S. is akin to protecting his own dreams.
"When you have a dream of making good in life, and when given the opportunity to prove yourself, you are ready to defend that opportunity," he explained.
Having met the qualifications and honorably served in the military for more than a year, Olajire was ready to take the Oath of Allegiance downrange when an injury to his hand sent him back to Hawaii. With the help of his rear detachment commander, Capt. Charles Romero, his application was expedited here, and his wife, Adenike, and mother, Modupeola, were able to witness the event.
"I am very happy. This is a dream come true," said Adenike, smiling continuously. "I am glad I was able to be a part of the whole process."
As soon as she is qualified, she will apply for citizenship, as well.
Despite his injuries, Olajire believes the ceremony was an incredible opportunity to be able to share with his family, and he appreciates the efforts Romero took to make it happen.
Before receiving his certificate of naturalization, Olajire recited the Pledge of Allegiance, its words not only evidence of his new duty as a citizen of the U.S., but his duty as a Soldier, as well.
Charlotte Gee, supervisory adjudication officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Honolulu, reminded Olajire of the benefits and responsibilities of being an American: "To protect the U.S. government if called upon, to vote, to run for office, to attend jury duty, to participate in your communities," she said.
Citizenship is one of the most coveted gifts the U.S. government can bestow, and the most important immigration benefit that can be granted, according to the US-CIS.
Since 2004, changes in immigration law and procedures have made it easier for U.S. military personnel to naturalize. In 2008, 7,815 immigrant Soldiers became naturalized citizens.
In a few weeks, Olajire will return to Iraq a changed man - a U.S. Soldier and citizen ready to live the American dream.