FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Thirty-three Soldiers changed their lives forever, officially becoming American citizens during a naturalization ceremony, at Marne Garden, April 4.

"Today, this is a great day to be a Soldier and an American," said Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of the Third Infantry Division. "Thirty-three American Soldiers from all over the world - Asia, the Pacific, Africa, the Carribean, Central and South America, Mexico and Europe - become American citizens today."

Cucolo discussed what the new citizens thought of joining America.

"Getting ready for today, I read all of our Soldiers' reasons for wanting to become a citizen and why they are wearing the U.S. Army uniform, and they would make you proud," he said. "Common themes run throughout their reasons: 'I want the right to vote. The USA is my home now, and I want to be a real part of it. I want to be a part of the greatest nation the world has ever in one form or another seen.' The reasons they joined the Army, they are nearly unanimous: All of these Soldiers said in some form or another, 'I want to give back to the country that gave me so much.'"

Spc. Claudette Penaredondo Automated Logistics Specialist 4/3 Aviation Headquarters, originally from the Philippines, was one of America's newest American citizens.

"It feels great, I'm very honored to be an American citizen," she said. "I'm serving this nation. It's an honor to fight for our freedom and rights. Both of my grandfathers were World War 2 veterans. They were Filipino citizens who served under the United States."

Another Soldier was just as proud to be an American citizen.

"I'm very proud," said Pvt. Edward Szall, a tanker with the 1/30th Infantry Battalion, originally from Great Britain. "I'm part of the greatest nation in the world. In America you can do what you really want, you can speak freely, it's a great place."
Other leaders who attended the event were proud of the Soldiers who were sworn in as American citizens.

"This was an absolutely great ceremony," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, command sergeant major of 3rd ID. "These 33 Soldiers have made a great a great decision to support and defend the constitution of our nation and now have the opportunity to be sworn in as American citizens. It's a great day to be a dogface soldier."

Andrews also encouraged leaders who had Soldiers who were immigrants to submit the proper paperwork in order to ensure the Army can allow even more of its Soldiers to become American citizens.

On April 4, Soldiers not born in this country were given the opportunity to become American citizens through their service to America. The highest levels of 3rd ID leadership were there to show how proud they were of their new citizens and their dog face Soldiers.