LSA ANACONDA, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2006) - The U.S. Army reunited a sister and brother as they became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony here.
"I joined the Army in 2004, just one week after my sister joined," said Erick A. Soto, tracked vehicle mechanic, 16th Engineers Battalion, out of Friedberg, Germany, currently based at Ar Ramadi.
"I wanted to become a better person, not just by staying at home," said Adriana Soto Cota, supply specialist for 3rd Corps Support Command out of Wiesbaden, Germany. "I wanted to get out and do something with my life."
Soto, 27, and Soto Cota, 22, were both born in Mexicali, Mexico and moved to El Centro, Calif., when he was nine and she was four years old.
"This country gave me a lot," Soto Cota said. "It gave so many opportunities for my family. I feel part of this country now. I still love my country of Mexico, but the United States has offered a lot more for us. It helped us out."
They never imagined that they would get their American citizenship in Iraq.
"It just feels great, knowing that I'll get to see my sister before she goes back to Germany," Soto said. "Especially, since I am based in such a hostile place."
"It gives me a little push for the duration of my deployment," he said. "Now, I will be able to go back home in one piece. I'm very happy."
The military has brought the two of them together, again. Their reuniting wasn't planned. It just coincidentally happened.
They said they attended basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C., but were in different companies, living in barracks that were nearby.
Serving as active duty Soldiers, they are both stationed in Germany, apart by merely a five-hour driving distance, and now they are deployed in Iraq.
Soto and Soto Cota are very happy to become a naturalized American citizens.
"I feel that I have more bragging rights," Soto said. "I can say that America is my country now."
Soto said that he feels great inside because he is a Soldier and now an American Soldier.
"I can tell people that I'm an American citizen fighting for my country," he said.
"It feels great," Soto Cota said. "I have my brother here with me. That makes it even better."
She said that when she is in uniform, it makes her feel like she has done something great, which makes becoming an American citizen more rewarding.
"This is a life-changing experience for me," Soto Cota said. "I am letting go of my Mexican citizenship to become an American. I am still going to be Mexican, but I will also be an American."
Some of Soto's hobbies include boating, going to the gym, and working on cars. When Soto returns home, he plans to finish his degree in Psychology.
Soto Cota also plans on going to college.
"I have always planned on going to school," she said. "I would like to someday get a civilian government job."
She said there are no obstacles that would prohibit her from a job because of her citizenship.
"There will be new opportunities and new opened doors for us to go to work," she said. "We can have a career anywhere in the United States."