KIRKUK, Iraq (June 25, 2006) -- The American Dream -- it is what many people long for and what many American citizens take for granted. But for three Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, the dream is becoming a reality.
Specialist Sergio Del Vecchio is one such Soldier. The Guatemala City native moved to California with his parents at age eight. He joined the Army in 2002 as a medic in the hopes of, among many other goals, becoming a U.S. citizen.
"It was one of my goals," he said. "The opportunity here is so much better than anywhere else."
Del Vecchio said he began the process to gain his citizenship when he returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom I, but because of delays and personnel being reassigned, he had to start the process over again during this rotation.
"It took about one and a half to two months to get everything finalized," he said. "My commander â?¦ platoon sergeant â?¦ worked to get everything finalized."
Another Soldier going through the naturalization process is Spc. Hernan Hernandez, Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
Hernandez was born in Mexico and, like Del Vecchio, moved to the United States when he was about 8 years old.
Hernandez also said citizenship was one of his many goals in joining the Army. He added that he is very happy to have been able to complete his paperwork while in Iraq -- something he did not know was possible.
"I never thought it was possible to do your citizenship in a combat zone," he said. "I'm very thankful to my command â?¦ they really helped me out."
Hernandez said he is happy to be in the final stage of obtaining his citizen status and noted that now he is aiding some of his buddies who are in the first stage of their process.
"I have friends going through the process and they're always asking me what's next," he said, adding that anyone wishing to obtain their citizenship should look to their personnel staff to begin the paperwork.
Most importantly, he notes, Soldiers should not be discouraged by the length of time the process may take.
"Don't give up," he said. "Anything is possible â?¦ if I did it, I know they can."
In addition to support from his chain of command, Hernandez said his family has backed him up throughout his citizenship quest and his time in the service.
"I talked to my mom and I gave her the news â?¦" he said, 'she's proud of me for getting my citizenship and for what I'm doing here -- being in Iraq and defending our country."
These Soldiers have made the choice to serve the United States. After their oath of citizenship, July 1, they can officially say they are serving 'their" country.