75 Marines and sailors take citizenship oath at Camp Foster

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, August 28, 2006

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Iran, Russia and Cuba were just a few of the 26 nations represented by the 75 Marines and sailors who became U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Butler Theater here Friday.

Being an American is a privilege that also has great responsibility, said Kevin K. Maher, U.S. consul general and the keynote speaker at the ceremony. It is a responsibility Maher assured the naturalized servicemembers they already understand “because you choose to serve your country even before it was your country.”

America’s diversity is what makes it great, Maher said. “E Pluribus Unum — from many, one: This is the history of America. We are many races, religions, colors and backgrounds but we are one because we are Americans. New blood and new ideas are the strength of the United States.”

The naturalization ceremony represents that, he said. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Web site, immigration laws require that individuals seeking U.S. citizenship live in the United States at least five years, but the time requirement is expedited to one year for those serving in the Armed Forces.

Even that seemed too long, said Philippines native Petty Officer 1st Class Albert Hernandez, 27, with Personal Services Detachment Okinawa on Kadena Air Base.

He reported being nervous and unable to sleep Friday night, but after Saturday’s ceremony said being a citizen “feels good … I’ve been waiting for a year for this and the only bad thing was the wait.”

Gaining U.S. citizenship meant a great deal to her as well, said Cpl. Diane Charles, 30, originally from Grenada. Charles, with III Marine Expeditionary Force, is on her second enlistment.

“This means I can have all the rights of an American citizen and that I can better serve my country,” Charles said.