NORFOLK, Virginia - Monday was a very special day for Sgt. 1st Class Yao Benie and his wife Madeleine. It was at 10:30 a.m., April 16 at Hampton, Virginia's Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse that Madeleine became one of America's newest citizens.
It was 22 years ago that the Benie's left family and friends in Africa's Ivory Coast to begin life anew in the United States. First came Yao, then later his wife.
Following in his brother's footsteps, Benie joined the Army and received his citizenship after completing Army basic training. He is now one year away from retirement and looking forward to his next adventure -- working for the military as a civilian transportation specialist.
Benie's brother, Eric Grant, retired from the Army as a Warrant Officer and went on to earn his doctorate degree. He has since retired from his second job with the United States Department of Agriculture.
After completing her five year residency requirement and passing an extensive written and oral examinations on American history and government, Madeleine proudly stood in the courthouse chamber with more than a hundred other soon-to-be citizens and raised her right hand.
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state of sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen," Madeleine repeated after the presiding Judge. "And I will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombat service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God."
"Without a doubt, America's strong point is in our diversity," said John Hanson, 597th Transportation Brigade Deputy to the Commander. "For nearly 250 years, our nation has evolved and strengthened, fed by the spirit and determination of immigrant families such as Madeleine and Sgt. 1st Class Benie and is what makes us uniquely American."
"It was very emotional and I was so happy," said Madeleine. "After taking the oath I knew it was going to happen. My dream was finally going to come true."
And with her certificate in hand, Madeleine Benie became America's newest citizen.