After raising their right hands and reciting the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, 52 members of U.S. Forces Korea became American citizens Feb. 13. The group represented more than 20 different countries, according to organizers, and traveled to U.S.F.K. headquarters from across the Korean peninsula for this once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.
The majority of the new U.S. citizens are members of Eighth Army with some civilians and sister services represented.
Specialist Simelia Grant, 579th Forward Support Company, 6-37th Field Artillery Battery, made the trip down to Camp Humphreys from Camp Casey. She joined the Army last February with South Korea being her first permanent duty assignment. Her path to the citizenship ceremony from Clarendon, Jamaica, was long and far in distance, but relatively short at the same time.
"The process started when I was in [Advanced Individual Training] maybe six months ago and now here I am, a United States citizen," said Grant. "It marks a new beginning for me, new opportunities, and I get to share in the traditions of the United States. I'm really excited to continue on this journey as an American."
Every year, thousands of foreign-born service members and their family members become U.S. naturalized citizens. Joining the military can offer a faster path to U.S. citizenship, according to Military OneSource. Among the benefits are shorter residency requirements, no state-of-residence requirement and application fees are waived.
"I can be whoever I want," said Pfc. Vishal Modha, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/Combined ROK-US Division. "I can start my own business, I can be independent on my own two feet."
Modha, an AH-64 Attack Helicopter repairer, joined the U.S. Army out of St. Cloud, Florida. He says Indian law does not allow dual citizenship so people like him would have to turn in their Indian passport if they take another country's citizenship. But, according to him, this has been a longtime goal.
"Just to be a citizen of the United States of America; to keep supporting the land of the free as I serve in the Army for as long as I can," Modha said.
Officials say U.S.F.K. plans to hold another citizenship ceremony at the beginning of the summer.