FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Directorate of Human Resources and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducted a virtual naturalization ceremony May 5 for five service members who are here attending training.
The event helped mark the return of naturalization ceremonies to the installation after a five-year hiatus, and according to Mike Beando, DHR director, this is not only a “momentous” occasion for the installation but for the service members and their families and friends.
“Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in a person’s life,” Beando said. “Service members who apply for naturalization, show their commitment to the United States and their loyalty to the Constitution and its people.”
One service member who took part in the ceremony was Spc. Mikael Spence, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist with Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, who said “becoming a U.S. citizen is one of the greatest privileges one can gain.”
“Becoming a U.S. citizen guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Spence, who is originally from Jamaica, said.
Airman 1st Class Kediecia Malcolm, also from Jamaica, agreed.
“I wanted to become a U.S. citizen because I am aware of the rights and responsibilities that come with such a privilege,” said Malcolm, who is attending engineering training with the Air Force's 368th Training Squadron here. “Most times, only the benefits are highlighted, which are all extremely excellent. However, rights, such as, the Bill of Rights, and just the pride and freedom of belonging to the greatest nation in the world are my main reasons. I am happy to have been able to earn that privilege and right.”
Prior to this year, service members travelled from Fort Leonard Wood to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend naturalization ceremonies and take the Oath of Allegiance. Beando said it took a lot of coordination to get the ceremony back on the installation, but said the hard work has paid off.
“Conducting the ceremony on Fort Leonard Wood saved service members’ and units’ time and money,” he said. “And Ms. Jean Kish with DHR did all of the heavy lifting to make this ceremony possible and really put in a lot of time and energy to make it successful and special for the service members involved.”
The next ceremony on Fort Leonard Wood is scheduled to take place in late June, and according to Beando, “the goal is to have in-person naturalization ceremonies on post in conjunction with Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training graduations.”
Call DHR at 573.596.0132 for more information about the installation’s naturalization ceremonies.