By Army Spc. Scott Davis
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 11, 2008 - This Veterans Day was like no other for 77 service members who took the oath of allegiance and officially became U.S. citizens while deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, William Wood attended the naturalization ceremony as the guest speaker, along with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-101 and Regional Command-East commander.
"For some of you, it probably seems like it was just yesterday when you raised your right hand and said that you would support and defend the constitution of the United States and serve in the Armed Forces," said Schloesser. "Today, you are going to raise your hand again and become a citizen of the country of that constitution."
After Schloesser said a few words, he introduced Wood as the guest speaker for the ceremony.
Wood's speech recognized the hard work and dedication of the 77 service members who stood in front of him.
"You've served with honor, and you've served with skill, and you've served with dedication to the country that you so proudly make yours today and we so proudly offer to you," Wood said. "Your decision to defend the freedoms that the United States were founded on stands as a testament to your dedication."
Wood concluded his speech and introduced Robert Looney, district director from the United States' Citizenship and Immigration Services, Bangkok District Office, who said a few words to the service members and administered the oath of allegiance.
"In a few moments I'm going to formalize a process that you started many years ago. I consider all of you already to be American citizens; you were American citizens when you put on your uniform. This will formalize that process and give evidence to the decision you have already made," Looney said. "Raise your right hand and repeat after me."
After the Oath, each service member received their Certificate of Naturalization by Wood and Schloesser. The new American citizens then lined up to get handshakes and congratulations from their peers.
Spc. Carol Bell was one of them. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica, who came to America with her family in her early 20s. Now deployed with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, she explained how she felt during ceremony.
"It was emotional for me, especially when they played 'God Bless the U.S.A.' When I say the Soldiers' creed and when I say, I am an American Soldier, after taking my oath, I can say deep down from within, I am an American Soldier," Bell said. " So today meant a lot to me."
(Army Spc. Scott Davis is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 101.)