War on Terrorism

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Minnesota Army National Guard member, Ukraine native officially becomes U.S. citizen

By Army National Guard Capt. Michael Lovas
Minnesota National Guard

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (3/28/12) – Spc. Yaroslav Sergei Dmytrochenko joined the Minnesota Army National Guard as a Ukrainian citizen, proudly serving as an American Soldier. While deployed to Kuwait he was able to officially earn his U.S. citizenship in a Naturalization Ceremony held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Saturday.

He left Minnesota as a Ukrainian and will return home as an American.

Dmytrochenko started his military career in 2008. Like every Soldier, he took an oath pledging to defend the Constitution of the United States. What makes his story different and unique is that when he took that oath, he was not an American citizen, he was a Ukrainian citizen.

He was born in Ukraine in 1989 and his family relocated to Minnesota in. Then he didn’t speak any English, but attended school and worked hard to learn the language by the end of his freshman year of high school.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard, as a tank mechanic, and was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry “Red Bulls” Division.

“I was always thinking of joining” he said. “In Ukraine [all males] have to.”

Along his journey to citizenship he’s had great support and interest from fellow Soldiers.

“A lot of people didn’t know a non-citizen can serve in the military,” Dmytrochenko said. “It’s been a good thing that I had an opportunity to serve.”

In 2011 he deployed to Kuwait as a Ukrainian citizen wearing an American flag patch on his shoulder as an American Soldier.

While in Kuwait, he learned about an opportunity to finally earn his citizenship, something his mother and sister had already been able to complete.

He stood with 14 other service members in the Camp Arifjan Chapel as Ambassador Matthew Tueller, U.S. ambassador to Kuwait and Maj. Gen. Gary Cheek, deputy commanding general-Kuwait of Third Army/U.S. Army Central, observed the Oath of Naturalization. After the oath the 15 service members stood shoulder to shoulder and proudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as American citizens.

“It was nice that the Army could help me with this” Dmytrochenko said. “It feels good to be an official citizen.”

Now that he is an American citizen, he is able to obtain a U.S. passport so he can travel back to Ukraine to visit family he hasn’t seen in eight years.

Dmytrochenko posted on his Facebook wall, “I’m officially an American” and said he received more responses than he’s ever had on Facebook. He said the outpouring of support, respect and excitement for him has been amazing.

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