FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 21, 2016) -- Eighty-five Soldiers from across the installation took the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens during a ceremony Jan. 12 at the Soldier Support Center.
This semi-monthly event is hosted by the 266th Quartermaster Battalion and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department.
“The sight of all these Soldiers – representing 29 countries of the world – standing as brothers and sisters in arms and swearing to defend the Constitution of the United States was an inspiration,” said Maj. Jason Logan, 266th QM Bn.
The Soldiers took part in the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which is one of multiple programs used by the Department of Defense to help troops become citizens, said Frank Reffel, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office director.
“Many foreign nationals have skills the Army can use,” said Reffel. “This program is an incentive to speed up the citizen process.”
Lt. Col. Scott B. Kindberg, 266th QM Bn. commander, addressed the new citizens during the ceremony.
“U.S. natural-born citizens sometimes take it for granted, but I know you don’t take it for granted,” he said. “This is a moment you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.”
Each of the ceremonies has a guest speaker, and Navy Culinary Specialist First Class Maureen Go, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, spoke at the recent event.
“It was seven years ago when I stepped foot on American soil,” said Go – a naturalized citizen from the Philippines. “I knew two things in life: one, I will always make my parents proud by making a difference in the world, and two, I will become an American citizen.”
As the seventh child in a family of 11, Go said her parents were unable to send their children to college, and that helped motivate her to be an American Soldier and a naturalized citizen.
“Being in the military made me realize I should not be afraid, I belong to an organization filled with diverse faces,” she said. “I realized I should not be scared or feel alone because people from different nations came to the United States to help their future and build their own dreams.”
Go – who has served six years in the military – charged the new citizens at the end of her speech.
“Be loyal to this nation and its heritage, and fulfill your duties and responsibilities as an American citizen and as an American Soldier,” she said. “Respect and value everyone around you … be willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to protect this country, never forget those who have gone before us. Do what is right even though no one is looking, and be committed to the excellence and fair treatment of all.”
Pvt. Michelle Thompson – from Ecuador – was one of the Soldiers who took the oath and said she did so to increase her opportunities in the future.
“I want to become a better person, to make my father proud and utilize my Army training,” she said.