On Sep. 27 the 21st Theater Sustainment Commander, Maj. Gen. James Smith, welcomed and gave congratulations to 42 new citizens of the United States of America at a ceremony held at Sembach Kaserne, Kaiserslautern. The new U.S. citizens represented 29 countries of origin and included 17 Service Members. His remarks are below.
Good afternoon, to our new citizens, friends, families, loved ones, and members of Team 21 that are with us today in person, and virtually. I would be remiss to not first extend my greetings to Ms. Eloris James from the Immigration Services Office who is joining us virtually today to give the oath and her own words of congratulations and encouragement. Welcome to Team 21 and thank you for coming today to recognize such an outstanding group of individuals.
First, to the 17 Service Members who can now proudly call themselves American citizens. Thank you for what you do. It is essential that we take the time to acknowledge your dedication to service and commitment to our nation despite not having all of the privileges that are afforded to your peers who are United States citizens.
Choosing to serve in the armed forces of the United States of America is not a decision that anyone takes lightly, especially when some of you may come from other countries with extremely impressive experiences and resumes. So, for your decision to choose to serve this country, thank you.
As a U.S. Service Member, you not only protect the United States and its citizens from direct threats, but you also help maintain peace and stability throughout the world — perhaps even in your country of origin.
Service members born in the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, China, and South Korea are the top five countries of birth among naturalized service members since 2017.
The next five countries of birth — Nigeria, Ghana, India, Haiti, and Nepal — comprised an additional 17% of military naturalizations.
Spc. Chanda Devkota, a dental assistant at Landstuhl, is from one of those countries — Nepal. She looks forward to being able to vote and continue to serve.
Spc. Odor Zeff is from Nigeria and sees becoming a U.S. citizen as a way for him to keep helping as many people as possible.
Spc. Nathalie Gustave, a Blackhawk mechanic, is from Haiti. She looks forward to making a career out of her military service.
Spc. Joycelyn Nicolas is from the Philippines and always dreamed of coming to the U.S. She is passionate about giving back to the country that welcomed her.
Our Armed Forces are stronger with this diversity among our ranks, and our country benefits from this this diversity among our citizenry.
Since 2002, the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services naturalized more than 148,000 members of the U.S. military, both at home and abroad, with ceremonies from right here in Kaiserslautern to more than 30 countries across the globe.
I’m pleased to note that in the last five years, service members from the Army comprised about two-thirds of all military naturalizations. Huah!
To the 25 spouses that are amongst us today as new American citizens, thank you for your continued trust and faith in our military. Your support is what keeps our organization strong, and I am grateful for your decision to continue to support our service members and the ideals of our nation.
In taking this solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America” you have demonstrated your allegiance to the principals that have made our country great. We are here today to honor and celebrate this important decision in your life.
E pluribus unum is a phrase that appears on the great seal of the United States of America. It is on every American dollar bill and every U.S. coin. E pluribus unum means “out of many, one” and I can think of no more beautiful example of that than a naturalization ceremony. Today, we are the real-world example of this phrase — out of the many of us — we are one team. Americans.
When we began this ceremony, you stood as individuals representing 29 countries from Belize to the United Kingdom. You now stand proud, together, as American citizens.
We are a country governed “by the people, for the people,” and we share the collective goal of making our country a “more perfect” union. You are now the “people” and full participants in our collective and continuous efforts to become “more perfect.” These words have served to guide our nation as it has grown, prospered, and become a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions of people around the world.
During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed more than 7.3 million naturalized citizens into our great nation. Immigrants are the clearest evidence of how people have responded to the hope and opportunity that the United States represents.
You will strengthen the fabric of our nation with your contributions to American society and continued prosperity. I am confident that you, as our newest citizens, will continue to add to the strength and character of our nation.
As an American, you will have new opportunities to participate in our democratic republic — to vote, to serve on a jury, even to work for the Federal government. I hope this day inspires you to take full advantage of your citizenship, and the rights and responsibilities that come along with it.
As you build your lives as Patriots, I encourage you to be active, while giving back to your community and country through civic participation and service.
Whether you contribute by volunteering with a local organization, serving in our Armed Forces, owning a business, running for public office, serving on a jury, or casting your vote on Election Day, you will carry on our nation’s proud heritage.
Each one of you comes from a unique background that has the potential to utilize your skills, strengths and abilities to continue to make our country a beacon of hope. In the words of our Commander-in-Chief, “Thank you for choosing us and believing America is worthy of your aspirations.”
I congratulate each of you on reaching this important milestone. Your hard work and determination have led you here, and I am honored to be a part of such a tremendous moment in your lives. Your spirit, and dedication, will uphold America’s tradition of providing hope and opportunity for generations of immigrants to come.
First in Support!