News: America's newest citizens sworn in at BAF
Story by Spc. Chuck Espie
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –More than 70 U.S. service members were sworn in and presented with certificates of naturalization in a ceremony here June 3.
While the naturalization candidates come from a variety of places and backgrounds, each one of them has something in common – they all chose to wear the uniform of a country that was not their own.
"I think it's a tremendous example that you've got a group of young men and women here who for years have taken an oath of allegiance to our constitution and put themselves in harm's way," said Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. "And, I can't think of anyone who more deserves to become a citizen of the United States of America than somebody who has served in the United States Armed Forces."
Eikenberry presented the new citizens with their naturalization certificates and spoke at the ceremony.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law Executive Order 13269, which allowed for expedited naturalization for anyone serving on active duty during the War on Terrorism. Subsequent policy changes allowed naturalization ceremonies to be held for servicemembers abroad.
"In 2004, former President Bush directed my agency by executive order to travel to any location to provide naturalization for U.S. service members who wish to obtain United States citizenship," said Robert Looney, District Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Bangkok District. "Before that order, applicants could only naturalize while in the United States. That order had been strengthened by law, and the mandate continued by President Obama."
The naturalization ceremonies held at Bagram have become a bi-annual tradition, taking place on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.
More than 100 fellow service members attended the ceremony to watch their comrades become citizens.