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Many serving in United States Forces are foreign-born

By Staff | Feb 20, 2009

A few years ago, one of my best friends, Dabney Chapman, and I had the pleasure of attending the ceremony in which two of our friends, Jochen & Margaret Kiefer of Shepherdstown, became American citizens.

Because I was so moved by the words and emotions of that very special event at the Federal Building in Martinsburg, I jumped at the chance to attend a similar ceremony that welcomed into citizenship over three dozen men and women of our armed forces who have served and sacrificed for our country even before it was officially their country.

The oath sworn by our new citizens gave me a deep sense of pride. The group included members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, including many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. They were all volunteers who followed their conscience and stepped forward at a difficult and dangerous time.

The group represented 26 different countries on five continents. It is one of the true glories of the melting pot that is our country. To be an American, you don’t have to be a descendant of the Founders or the Pilgrims.

Abraham Lincoln said that immigrants to the United States can read the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence and feel that … they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who [signed] that Declaration.

But it is not just that these new citizens are now as American as any citizen of the USA. It is their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way for the rest of us that has earned the sincere admiration of their fellow citizens.

Throughout American history, new citizens in every walk of life have made America a better place. As soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, these new citizens have contributed something invaluable to their new homeland: their skills, talent, courage and a spirit of service.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 43,000 men and women have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the United States military. More than a hundred have fallen in defense of their new country. How fitting and just, the executive order signed by President Bush making all foreign-born, active duty members of the armed forces immediately eligible for U.S. citizenship.

I was honored to welcome each of them with warmth, pride and gratitude. These service members have shown their love for their new homeland in the most honorable way possible.

– Tom Maiden lives in Shepherdstown with his wife and four children. When not serving as a Citizen Sailor, Tom works part-time teaching insurance and financial planning at Shepherd University and owns a financial planning practice in Shepherdstown.