By Patrick BuffettJune 17, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (June 17, 2010) -- "Is that really a question'" posed Spc. Adrian Lungu, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier from Fort Totten, N.Y., when asked how he thought his life would change after becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States here Tuesday.
"Becoming a citizen is unlike anything I can describe," said the 35-year-old father of two. "There is no concept to compare it to ... it is everything."
An immigrant from Romania, Lungu was one of 58 Soldiers who participated in an early afternoon citizenship ceremony at the Soldier Support Center. The assembly included junior enlisted troops who are attending courses at Fort Lee and others who are assigned to guard and reserve organizations throughout the east coast.
Highlights of the event included: opening remarks by Col. Michael G. Morrow, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee, commander; the recitation of the oath of allegiance, led by Meddie Brown, associate director of the Customer Service Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; congratulatory remarks by Col. Vivian Hutson, Kenner Army Health Clinic commander; a video message from President Barack Obama; and closing remarks by Edward Eisner, director of the Fort Lee Human Resources department.
"The oath you are taking today is not the first that deserves special recognition," said Morrow during his talk. "You also made the decision to do something special for our country by enlisting in the armed forces. You represent only a small portion of our population - about one-and-a-half percent - who stood up and said 'I want to serve the United States of America.'
"This is the next step of the journey, and I know it's a special moment in your lives. Thank you for sharing it with us."
Also a naturalized citizen, Hutson focused on the sense of pride and accomplishment that immigrants feel when they officially become an American. She singled out participating Soldiers like Spc. Fatimo Hassan from Nigeria who has already earned a Masters of Business Administration degree and plans to become an Army officer, and Spc. Nelson Taku from Cameroon who said it was the "greatest day of his life."
"We all share the common spirit of possibility," Hutson said, "and a common ethic that says 'if you're willing to put your shoulder to the wheel, you can earn a place in this country.'"
Congratulating the ceremony participants, she continued, "Well, it's yours now ... a country you can be very proud of. It is a place where men and women are allowed to achieve and bring something new .... Our nation is stronger and greater today because of people like you."
In his video message, the president congratulated the participating troops and stated that they have earned the "honor and privilege to call themselves full-fledged U.S. citizens." Referencing all Americans, he said, "We are united by the principles of equality, fairness and doing what's right even if it isn't the easiest path."
He then challenged the Soldiers saying, "Use your talents to contribute to the good of our nation and our world. Help write the next great chapter in our history."
That's exactly what participating Soldiers like Pvt. Eva Goad from Bravo Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion, plan to do. Born in the Honduras, she came to America at age 9 with her parents who sought a better lifestyle and more educational opportunities for the children.
"It's just better here," she said. "It became our home." Joining the Army was a childhood dream, said Goad, who grew up in Chicago. She was captivated by the sense of teamwork and the many opportunities afforded to U.S. military personnel. Currently attending the Unit Supply Specialist course, the 23-year-old said she is considering a transition from the National Guard to active Army.
"It means a lot to not only be a part of this ceremony, but also wearing this uniform," she said. "It took a long time to get here (six months of paperwork, interviews and providing fingerprints), and now I'm looking forward to all of the opportunities ahead."
Lungu shares similar feelings. His journey to America five years ago was driven by the desire to find new challenges and build a better life for his family. The Army was the next logical step in that pursuit, he said. He attended the Shower, Laundry and Clothing Repair Specialist course, and is scheduled to attend officer candidate school in December.
"What's great about the military is that you can make it happen if you really know what you want," Lungu said. "It is an awesome experience that offers many challenges and that's what I love. And the ceremony today means I can go even farther, so that's another reason why it is such an important moment for me."