News: Paratrooper earns citizenship during White House ceremony
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
WASHINGTON - Service members filed into the East Room in the White House, July 4, anxiously awaiting the arrival of President Barack Obama. Although they are all members of the U.S. military, they were not yet U.S. citizens. They had all been invited to Washington, D.C., to take part in a naturalization ceremony to gain their citizenship.
Among the participants was Pfc. Jhonathan Zapata, an infantryman assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Zapata grew up in Cali, Colombia, and served with the Colombian army for three years. At 22 years old, he moved to the U.S., making Plainfield, N.J. his new home.
Plainfield is where he met his wife, Carolina Rodriguez, also a native of Colombia who gained her citizenship while serving with the United States Marine Corps.
With his green card, Zapata was able to join the U.S. Army in January 2012. After completing one station unit training and airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga., Zapata was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., but had not yet been officially sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Just days before Independence Day, he was informed he would be sworn in by the President of the United States during a ceremony at the White House on the Fourth of July.
“I was shocked,” Zapata said, who was expecting a small ceremony at Fort Bragg. The 25 service members from all military branches traveled to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony where they raised their right hands and repeated the Oath of Allegiance, making them Americans.
Zapata said he is proud to officially be an American and to serve his adopted nation. He said he knew serving in the U.S. Army was what he wanted to do and he plans to continue his service for years to come. “I want to make the Army my career.”