U.S. Army Sgt. Declan Keighley, the senior sniper with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, swore the Oath of Allegiance to become an American citizen at the James M. Hanley U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building in Syracuse, New York, on September 22, 2022.
Born in Ipswich, England, Keighley moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his mother and sister in 2009 at age eight. In childhood, Keighley found inspiration from combat marksmen depicted in movies and video games.
"It was always just kind of a dream of mine to be a sniper," said Keighley. "but when I first got into the Army, it was kind of one of those things that seemed almost impossible."
Keighley's mailed application for citizenship was due to discrepancies. Undeterred, he applied electronically on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
"It made the process so much easier. It's kind of just a step-by-step process of what you need and what you have to fill out," said Keighley, "but you have to be very thorough with your answers or they'll kick it back."
Keighley completed biometrics, an interview, a background check, and tests on his knowledge of American history and the English language once he received his naturalization notice.
Now Keighley can live in places and conduct missions he previously could not. With access to special forces training, he can explore the full scope of his profession.
"It's kind of relieving after trying for so long … that I'm going to be able to do things that all my peers around me are able to do," said Keighley.
Sergeant 1st Class Bryan Cody, a non-commissioned officer with the 10th Mountain Division, served with Keighley in Delta Company and deployed with him to Kabul, Afghanistan.
He had a front-row seat to Keighley's initial efforts to navigate the naturalization process. Cody believes that forfeiting the citizenship of one's own country to become a citizen in another is a big deal that says a lot about the direction in which America is moving.
"We're very fortunate to have someone like him want to be an American citizen," said Cody. "No one deserves it more than him."