FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Nineteen servicemembers and Family members began the new year by raising their right hand and vowing their loyalty to the United States during a ceremony Jan. 19 at the Elkhorn Conference Center.

The citizenship ceremony included the national anthem, reciting the oath of citizenship, the Pledge of Allegiance and a video message from President Barack Obama.

The new U.S. citizens hailed from 13 countries -- Canada, China, Federated States of Micronesia, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, St. Lucia and Vietnam.

"Franklin Delano Roosevelt once described America as a 'nation of many nationalities, many races and many religions bound together by a single unity -- the unity of freedom and equality,'" said Kate McNeely, Fort Carson Army Community Service immigration coordinator.

McNeely assists active-duty servicemembers and their Families, retirees and reservists who wish to become U.S. citizens. She visits with the applicants to assess their situation and then assists them in putting their application packages together.

"My office has the responsibility of servicing all armed forces within the Pikes Peak region," she said.

Once the process is complete, which McNeely said usually takes about three months, applicants are called in for a morning interview with an immigration and naturalization counselor. They also take a naturalization test -- an oral exam of up to 10 questions on history, government and geography pulled from a list of 100 questions in the study guide. Those that pass the interview and test return in the afternoon for the formal ceremony where they receive their certificate of citizenship.

"The ceremony is very important as this is where the candidates take the oath and pledge their allegiance to the United States," she said.

Shanda Shepard, a Family member from Canada, said the ceremony was great because she had her Family and co-workers there to support her and witness this monumental step in her life.

"My husband is proudly serving in the Army and I fully support what he does and I am proud of what he does, and I'm proud to be a citizen now," Shepard said.

Shepard also added though the naturalization process was lengthy; it was well worth it and encourages others to take the step to become a U.S. citizen.

Members of the U.S. armed forces and their Family members may be eligible for citizenship, to include expedited and overseas processing, under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

For more information visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at