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Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2010 - Twenty-four U.S. servicemembers took the oath of U.S. citizenship in front of President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the White House's Rose Garden today.
Obama said the military men and women are inspiring, noting they've made remarkable, typically American journeys.
"Most of all, to America's newest citizens – it is a great honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief, and it is my greatest pleasure to be among the first to greet you as a 'fellow American,'" Obama said to the newly minted U.S. citizens.
"To you and your families, welcome to the White House," the president added.
The military men and women represented all service branches and hailed from countries around the globe. They are the latest of 58,000 servicemembers who have become citizens since 2001, said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who administered the oath of citizenship.
Obama also presented Marine Corps Sgt. Ledum Ndaanee with the first Outstanding American by Choice award. Ndaanee, who was born in Nigeria, was wounded by an improvised explosive device during his second tour in Iraq. He is recovering from traumatic brain injury.
The injured Marine is slated to compete at the inaugural Warrior Games held May 10-14 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ndaanee "was not only determined to recover; he was determined to help others," Obama said of the Marine's perseverance and spirit. "He has been a leader and mentor to his fellow wounded warriors."
The act of servicemembers becoming citizens celebrates America's spirit, strength and uniqueness, Obama said.
"While your stories are your own, today we celebrate the common spirit that lives within each of you, a spirit that has renewed and strengthened America for more than two centuries," Obama said. "We celebrate the spirit of possibility, an ethic that says if you're willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and apply your God-given talents, if you believe in yourself and you play by the rules, then there is a place for you in the United States of America, no matter where you come from and no matter what you look like."
America is enriched by the traditions and cultures that people bring from every corner of the world, Obama said. Immigration helps nurture "a dynamic economy that's constantly renewed by the talents and energies of each new citizen, and a people who understand that citizenship is not just a collection of rights, but it's also a set of responsibilities."
The servicemembers participating in the citizenship ceremony have demonstrated that they deserve to be Americans, Obama said.
"They played by the rules. They have earned their citizenship," the president said. "And so, on a day like this, we are also reminded of how we must remain both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."