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Pfc. jarrett branch, 17th Public Affairs Detachment
"It was my parents' dream for me to become a United States citizen; so we came to the United States about nine years ago," said Pvt. Alexey Gomanenko, from Russia, a Soldier with the 201st Military Intelligence Brigade. "They worked hard to help me realize this dream and I joined the military so I can achieve it sooner."
That dream finally became reality as Gomanenko, along with 30 other candidates from 23 countries, became United States citizens during the Citizenship Day Naturalization Ceremony at the American Lake Community Center, Sept. 18.
Even though all the candidates wanted to become United States citizens, each had their own reason for doing so.
For some, becoming a citizen filled them with a sense of accomplishment.
"It's pride," said Gomanenko. While being very excited and nervous about the ceremony, Gomanenko said he is looking forward to becoming a citizen before he deploys in the next few weeks.
For others, it was a sense of duty and love of this country.
"Out of everyone in my family, I will be the first one to become United States citizen," said Sgt. Ana Christman, from the Dominican Republic, a Soldier with Bravo Company, 5-5 Air Defense Artillery Battalion. "Since I love America and love being in the Army, I thought this would be a good idea. It was a long process but it is definitely worth it."
The candidates had to meet certain qualifications to become citizens. They had to have good moral character, knowledge of the English language and knowledge of government and history.
The candidates and audience were treated to a video of the history of naturalization in the United States following the posting of the colors and National Anthem. Brig. Gen. Jeff W. Mathis III, acting commanding general, Fort Lewis, was the keynote speaker and shared words of encouragement and admiration for the candidates.
"Today your dreams of becoming a United States citizen become a reality," said Mathis. "It is such a great day to be an American and even a better day to become one.
"Since the founding of our republic immigration has played a role in the shaping of our great land. Immigrants have contributed to every facets of American society including the military," he added.
After the comments from Mathis, the candidates took the Oath of Allegiance, were presented with certificates, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Next, the United States newest citizens viewed a congratulatory video message from President Barrack Obama.
"Today marks a very special day in your life," said President Obama. "You traveled a long path to get here. You swore a solemn to this country and now have all the rights of citizenship. With the privilege of citizenship, come great responsibilities. So I ask that you to use your freedoms and talents to contribute to the good of our nation and the world.
"Always remember, in America no dream is impossible. I am proud to welcome you as a new citizen of this country. May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America."
For America's 31 newest citizens, Sept. 18, will be a day they never forget. On that day, these representatives of 23 countries became unified by a sworn oath and earned a right that many hold dear to their hearts. On that day they gained the right to be called an American.