Military members take oath of citizenship on Veterans Day
Posted November 11, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Six men and women who serve in the United States armed forces became citizens during a special naturalization ceremony Tuesday to mark Veterans Day.
Luis Martinez, a Marine originally from Mexico, and Air Force member Fabiola Ten, a native of Dominican Republic, took the oath of citizenship in Durham along with Army soldiers Alma Lopez Oliveros, of Mexico, Diego Perez Varela, of El Salvador, Fan Wang, of China, and Webton Webley, of Jamaica.
"I've just achieved something great today," Webley said. "It's always been a dream of mine. Since I'm going to live here, I might as well serve the country to the best of my ability – and so I might as well go all out."
Perez Varela, a private with the 82nd Airbourne, has lived in the U.S. for four years and says his fellow soldiers are "family." His team leader, Sgt. Brett Bye, was there to watch him take the oath.
"It's phenomenal," Bye said. "It shows what a great nation this is, having people from the outside wanting to be a part of it."
After Sept. 11, the federal government launched a program to expedite the path to citizenship for immigrants who serve in the military. Nationwide, 78,000 service members have become citizens through the process. In North Carolina, 157 service members have become citizens this year.
"The decision to join the military, to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good, is one of the bravest choices an individual can make. This is especially true when you're signing up to defend your adopted home," state Rep. David Price, D-Raleigh, said during the ceremony inside the Durham County Health and Human Services building. "The decision to become an American citizen is a critical milestone in anyone's life. So, thank you."
An additional ceremony was held to recognize World War II veterans, including 101-year-old Jerry Smith, who was a Navy storekeeper.
"I never thought I'd be at a gathering of veterans," he said.