Foreign-born servicemembers become U.S. citizens in flight-deck ceremony

The United States continues to be the most popular nation in the world for immigrants with three times more foreign-born residents than the next nearest country. In Fiscal Year 2022 alone, more than 660,000 people were welcomed as new U.S. citizens.

As a kickoff to the 4th of July weekend, 20 sailors and Marines from 15 different countries became U.S. citizens during a moving naturalization ceremony on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum. As part of the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) annual Independence Day citizenship celebration, more than 6,600 new citizens took the oath of allegiance in more than 140 naturalization ceremonies around the country between July 1 and July 8. 

Sailors and Marines take the oath of allegiance during the naturalization ceremony on the USS Midway Museum. (credit: Nel Cepeda)

“Throughout our nation’s history, the promise of both life and liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness, is what has drawn millions from across the globe to call America their home,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou, a San Diego County native whose mother immigrated from Mexico and father is from Iraq. “There is nothing more patriotic than making the choice to be an American. Our country will be stronger and more diverse because of the choice they have made.”

For 20-year-old Vea Habron, a Navy airman from the Philippines, becoming an U.S. citizen comes with a tremendous sense of pride.

Navy Airman Vea Habron, from the Philippines, and Marine Corps. Cpl. Christopher Leon Barros, a native of Ecuador, become the newest U.S. citizens during a flight-deck ceremony.

“It feels great,” said Vea, who immigrated to the United States with her mother eight years ago and currently serves in the air department on the USS Makin Island (LHD-8). “I have more freedom now, and I’m finally able to vote and have a voice.”

The Honorable Dana Sabraw, the chief U.S. district judge from the Southern District of California and the son of immigrants, administered the oath of allegiance to the new citizens.

“When you take this oath, you’re going to be bound by an allegiance to the United States of America,” said the judge. “But we don’t ask that you give up the love, affection and affinity to your previous countries and cultures. As we all know, they add strength to our country.”

From Bahrain to Brazil, Mexico to Morocco, and Peru to the Philippines, the sailors and Marines came to the United States from all over the world.

“I’m very proud and it feels really good,” said Cpl. Christopher Leon Barros, who immigrated by himself from Ecuador at the age of 15 and is now a supply clerk with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Supply Battalion. “My family is also very proud of me.”

For some, it’s hard to believe why someone would join the military, subjecting themselves to potential harm, for a country they are not yet a citizen. For these 20 new citizens, it was not a difficult decision to make.

“I want to be part of this great country,” said 22-year-old Christopher who has been in the United States for seven years and is stationed at Camp Pendleton. “I wanted something better so that I could become better. I’m already taking college courses and my goal is to become an officer.”

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