During a July 4 naturalization ceremony along the Potomac River in Mount Vernon, Va., more than 100 immigrants became U.S. citizens, according to The Washington Post. Five of those individuals who raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States serve in the military as Marines. During the oath, these newly naturalized citizens vowed to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the U.S.
“I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God,” the immigrants said.
One man, Juan Cerda Guerra, is 29 years old and came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was just 5. He told The Post that he’s felt like an American for a long time although he never held the title of a U.S. citizen. He’s also been in the Marines for almost 10 years and completed two tours in Iraq. Cerda Guerra also held ranks including private, private first class, lane corporal, corporal and sergeant.
Since becoming a citizen, Cerda Guerra wants to continue rising in rank among the Marines saying he’s ready to give the ultimate sacrifice for the U.S. It is not uncommon for non-citizens to serve in the U.S. military, as more than 660,000 veterans became citizens between 1862 and 2000, The Post reported. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, he citizenship process has been sped up for non-citizens legally in the country to encourage them to join the military. Because of those policy changes, almost 90,000 military service members have been naturalized as U.S. citizens since September 2002.
During the first week of July, about 7,800 new citizens were naturalized in 100 scheduled ceremonies. Some of these events were designed for military members and took place at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.
“America has benefited immensely from the contribution of immigrants and citizens like yourselves,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said at the ceremony. “We look forward to seeing what each of you writes into the next chapter of this great American story.”
At the event on July 4, 101 new Americans from 46 countries were naturalized.