GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducted its first virtual naturalization ceremony at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, on both Wednesday and Thursday. This two-day ceremony was part of a special program to naturalize active-duty military members and their families. In total, 50 candidates from 25 countries were administered the Oath of Allegiance.
Included in the ceremony were special remarks from the DHS Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS Washington District Director Ron Rosenberg and USAG Bavaria Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Danbeck.
"We're excited to conduct this cross-Atlantic celebration of your United States citizenship," Rosenberg said virtually from the USCIS Headquarters in Washington D.C. "Despite the challenges we have faced during the pandemic, USCIS and Department of Defense partners located in Army and Navy installations worldwide have been committed to naturalizing our esteemed colleagues of the military, who undertake public service even before becoming a U.S. citizen. It's an honor to provide these services no matter the obstacle and we sincerely appreciate the collaboration with DoD."
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, this was the first virtual naturalization ceremony ever conducted at USAG Bavaria. According to the USAG Bavaria Directorate of Human Resources, personnel were busy for six consecutive weeks in the spring assisting USCIS conduct candidate tests and interviews from Tower Barracks.
Danbeck then took to the podium to express thanks and appreciation for all of the candidates.
"To our future citizens, thank you. Thank you for your service as a member of the Armed Forces — especially the best one the Army — and thank you for your truly selfless service as a spouse or child of a service member," he said. "But an even bigger thanks to all of your willingness and desire to become a member of the greatest nation in the world, the United States of America... In a few minutes, after taking the oath, you will become an American and add your customs, traditions, history and values to our melting pot — further enriching our great nation's identity and diversity."
Following the national anthem, Mayorkas virtually administered the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. Mayorkas was sworn in as Secretary of DHS by President Joe Biden in February, and he is the first Latino and immigrant confirmed to serve as Secretary of DHS. After administering the oath, he addressed the new citizens reflecting on how America was able to provide fundamental rights and liberties to his own family, being that he was naturalized in 1972, and how America continues to do so for all individuals around the world.
"The answer is quite clear — it is because of all of you," he said. "There is no more noble, or selfless, calling than the calling to serve in our Armed Forces. The fact that you have done so before you were even United States citizens speaks of your extraordinary commitment to those principles and values that make our country great and speaks to your extraordinary patriotism. We owe you, and your colleagues in the Armed Forces, an everlasting debt of gratitude for what you have done, what you do now and what you mean forever to our country."
Ceremony candidates who took the oath are stationed at garrisons across Germany, including: USAG Ansbach, USAG Baumholder, USAG Bavaria, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, USAG Stuttgart and USAG Wiesbaden.
"I usually speak at a naturalization ceremony about what new citizens can do for their country... Those words I need not express to all of you," Mayorkas added. "You are in our Armed Forces, and the question that we ask ourselves is really what can we do for you in gratitude for the sacrifice you make to really allow us all to be free and to allow our country — as the Colonel expressed — to be the greatest country in the world. Congratulations on this special day. Congratulations for what you have accomplished. And thank you so much for everything you do."
View video recordings of the ceremonies using these Facebook links:
View addition photos of the event using these Flickr links: