SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – Born to parents of El Salvador descent, but raised in the U.S. from childhood, Spc. Frida Mejia never questioned her citizenship.
It wasn’t until the onset of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 when she talked to an Army recruiter and uncovered she was missing a vital document.
Mejia, a signal support specialist assigned to Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, received her U.S. citizenship certificate on Nov. 29, 2022 in Honolulu.
“I wasn’t aware I was still missing crucial citizenship documentation until I was trying to join the U.S. Army, and the Army helped me get my N-600 document to prove I am a U.S. citizen,” said Mejia.
Mejia was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, but moved to North Carolina in 2006, with her parents and three brothers.
Unbeknownst to her, because Mejia wasn’t born in the U.S., she never received a U.S. birth certificate or any other document indicating her citizenship, despite her father’s U.S. citizenship.
She had a Salvadoran birth certificate and U.S. passport, and that always met her needs.
Growing up, the Army was never on Mejia’s radar as no one in her family had ever served.
For Mejia, her family was her center of gravity and she grew up very close to her brothers and parents, so moving too far away from home was something she never considered.
She graduated from Lumberton Senior High School in Lumberton, N.C., then went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, just a short 25-minute drive from her hometown.
“When I was at UNC-Pembroke, I was uncertain about my career and future because I wanted to be in the graphic design industry, but I wasn’t sure what to make out of it or what direction to take.”
Mejia graduated from UNC-Pembroke in the spring of 2017 with an undergraduate degree in digital arts.
“After I graduated, I found a job in Charlotte working at a printing shop. We’d print designs on t-shirts, make logos, and make all sorts of paper products for local companies.”
Mejia loved working with her colleagues, but she was stuck in a place working six days a week, spending long hours sitting at a desk, and had no promotion or educational growth opportunities.
While the job did provide a paycheck and kept her close to home, it left her with a void of purpose and challenge in her life.
Then in the spring of 2020, COVID-19 happened.
“The company I was working for temporarily closed for five months, but honestly, it was probably the best thing that could have happened. It forced me to reconsider if I was happy with my career, or if I wanted to expand my skills with a different organization.”
Mejia admits that during that transition phase in her life she didn’t feel mentally or physically healthy and overall, simply not at her best.
“I knew I had to make a change, so I visited an Army recruiter to see what options I had.”
Mejia realized while working at the printing company she had a greater passion for IT and was interested in the growing cyber profession.
“As much as I didn’t want to leave my family, the Army was a better fit for what I wanted out of life. I love being able to travel and continue to learn new skills, and the Army provides both.”
To join the Army, Mejia used her U.S. passport, which is used for individuals who are already citizens, but do not have proof of their citizenship.
Then, with help from her recruiter and platoon sergeants at advanced initial training, Mejia contacted a group from the American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program that helped get the ball rolling on her citizenship paperwork.
Since arriving to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Mejia has served admirably in her position as a troop communications representative.
“Spc. Mejia is the epitome of what it means to be a soldier. She is tenacious, competent, and meticulous,” said Cpt. Robert Heath, Troop Commander, Apache Troop, 3-4 CAV. “Her knowledge on the Troop’s communication equipment has made us a more effective unit and I am fortunate to have her in my organization.”
As a first-generation Army Soldier, Mejia’s family is already extremely proud of her accomplishments and she’s only just scratching the surface of the goals she’s set for herself.
Although she’s far from home, she’s on a path with endless possibilities.
“Now that I have my citizenship paperwork straight, I’m in the process of submitting my green to gold packet in hopes of earning a master’s degree in digital marketing and then earning my commission.”