News: Deployed soldiers become citizens on Veterans Day
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Seven deployed members of the U.S. Army officially became citizens of the nation they have sworn to support and defend during a naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on Veterans Day.
Staff Sergeant Dison Luzama, from Micronesia; Sgt. Franko Solano-Sambrano, from Venezuela; Sgt. Rajiv Hewitt, from Jamaica; Cpl. Sourivon Sathahone-Ramos, from Cuba; Spc. Franklin Pascua, from the Philippines; Pfc. Murphy Balsomi, from Congo and Pfc. Kemar Wedderburn, from Jamaica, declared their oath of allegiance and were sworn in as U.S. citizens during the ceremony.
“It’s indescribable, in a good way,” said Balsomi, an Infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, who lives in Dallas.
After the Soldiers raised their right hand and recited the oath, Wedderburn, the youngest member of the group to naturalize, led everyone in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Wedderburn, an indirect fire infantryman with 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, is currently serving at Combat Outpost Jannat in southern Afghanistan. He came to the United States on April 6, 2012, and joined the U.S. Army on Oct. 1, 2012. He said he is now officially “a member of a great nation.”
“Everyone I spoke to is very happy for me,” said Wedderburn, whose family lives in Patterson, N.J.
Solano said it was one of his goals to naturalize while deployed in Afghanistan.
“It makes me happy because it opens more opportunities for my military career,” he said about becoming a U.S. citizen.
Solano moved from Venezuela to Puerto Rico in 1999 before joining the U.S. Army in 2008. His family – including his wife and 3-year-old daughter – was the biggest motivator for Solano seeking to become a U.S. citizen. He spoke of the pride he felt in being the first member of his family to receive his citizenship.
“It brings joy and happiness to my family,” Solano said.
Dr. S. Ken Yamashita, the director of program coordination of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, and Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, Regional Command (South) and 4th Infantry Division commanding general, were among those who spoke at the ceremony.
“Each of these Soldiers has served in the United States Army not only stateside, but on numerous deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” LaCamera said. “They did this prior to taking the oath to become citizens of the United States. Today, we will recognize their commitment to become United States citizens and we will celebrate their selfless service for which they have already demonstrated in support of the defense of the United States and our Constitution.”
Yamashita spoke about one nation for many.
“We the people are one people,” he said. “We the people are all Americans. Congratulations, welcome to the United States.”
After Pius D. Bannis, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district director for Bangkok, Thailand, administered the oath of allegiance, each newly naturalized Soldier walked up to the stage to receive a certificate of naturalization. It was followed by a video presentation featuring President Barack Obama, who welcomed the new U.S. citizens.