News: Stryker soldier naturalized in White House ceremony
Story by Sgt. Michael Blalack
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – Pvt. 2 Aegean Obed of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, became a citizen of the United States in special naturalization ceremony, July 4, in the White House’s East Room.
President Barack Obama delivered remarks and presented coins at the event, which included foreign-born troops from all branches of service.
“All of you did something profound: You chose to serve,” Obama told the service members. “You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. In a time of war, some of you deployed into harm’s way. You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July -- duty, responsibility, and patriotism.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance to the service members.
Obed, a native of Manila, Philippines, was flown from Fairbanks to Washington, D.C., with travel provided courtesy of Alaska Airlines.
“I knew the Army would offer some great opportunities,” Obed said, “but this was really special. I had a great time.”
Obed emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17 to join his mother in Delano, Calif.
He enlisted in the Army in 2011 and attended basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.
In Alaska, he serves as a mobile gun systems crew member.
Upon arriving at Fort Wainwright, Obed quickly impressed both his leaders and his peers with his positive attitude, willingness to learn and his outgoing personality.
“He’s one of those guys you always see smiling, laughing and cracking jokes,” said Private 2 Brandon Kovacik, who went to basic training with Obed. “He works hard and is a great basketball player.”
Like many 19-year-olds, Obed enjoys playing video games and never says no to a game of basketball, according to Pfc. Maykol Lorenzo, another basic training comrade.
“He’s eager to learn, and learns fast,” Sgt. Alex Hermida, Obed’s supervisor, said. “He shows great discipline and bearing for a young soldier, is fast to correct any deficiencies, and stands out as exceptionally courteous to his peers as well as his leaders.”
About 87,000 immigrants from the Philippines have served in the U.S. armed forces, and the Filipino-born veterans comprise the largest group of foreign-born veterans.
Special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces. On July 3, 2002, the president signed an executive order authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces on or after Sept. 11, 2001, to immediately file for citizenship.
Video of the naturalization ceremony can be seen here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2012/07/04/president-obama-speaks-naturalization-ceremony