News: Warhorse soldiers become American citizens in Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Ruth Pagan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Three Warhorse soldiers who have been defending the United States in Afghanistan for the past eight months are now officially defending their country. In a naturalization ceremony held at Kandahar Air Field, the three soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and became American citizens Feb. 10.
“I can think of no better people, no better citizens, than you all sitting here,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Huggins, 82nd Airborne Division and Regional Command [South] commander, to the 36 soldiers, Marines and airmen who took part in the ceremony. “You already have been well vested and tested in your obligations to the citizens of the United States by virtue of the fact of what you’re doing here and that is ensuring those privileges for the people back in the United States.”
In order to receive their citizenship the soldiers had to submit an application, fingerprints, get interviewed and take a test on civics and American history.
“There was a lot of paperwork in the process,” said Pfc. Satoshi Kondo, a medic with Troop D, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., who emigrated with his family from Japan and is now a resident of Arcata, Calif. “I started the process when we got to Afghanistan.”
“It was a lot of pressure taking the test and waiting for approval,” said Pfc. Alberto Vera-Navarro, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., who emigrated with his family from Peru and is now a resident of San Jose, Calif. “It’s a relief to finally take the oath.”
Becoming an American citizen comes with a lot of mixed emotions.
“My mother has been so excited asking me about it since I did the application back in April 2011,” said Spc. Qianqian Liu, a medic with Troop C, 1st Sqdn., 10th Cav. Reg., who emigrated with her family from China and is now a resident of New York City, N.Y. “I’m the first in my family to become an American citizen.”
Also the first in his family, Kondo said, “My family is ambivalent about me becoming a citizen, they are worried about how long I will be able to stay in Japan when I go to visit them but I feel like it was time for me make that decision.”
The soldiers reasons for becoming citizens are just as diverse as their backgrounds.
“I did it for my father and mother,” Vera-Navarro said. “They actually got naturalized a couple of months ago and they gave me the courage to do it too.”
“I joined the Army and I’m fighting for my country,” Kondo said. “So, why shouldn’t I get citizenship? I’ve been in the states since 1990. I figured I’ve been here long enough that I felt like, ‘I want to be American.’”
“When I joined the Army being naturalized was not on my agenda,” Liu said. “But, I have seen a lot of great things that America does and I think being an American citizen will provide me more opportunities.”
After swearing the oath, saying the Pledge of Allegiance and receiving a certificate the soldiers became official American citizens.
“I feel really excited,” Vera-Navarro said. “I’m proud to be an American citizen.”
“I feel like I’m part of something bigger then myself,” Kondo said.
“I’m really proud to be an American and serve our country better,” Liu said. “I can’t wait to vote this coming November.”