CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Ninety-seven Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from 29 countries earned their U.S. citizenship Aug. 22 during a ceremony held aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
The event was the first time a naturalization ceremony for U.S. citizenship has occurred aboard Ronald Reagan. Five Sailors from the Ronald Reagan crew were among the 97 service members who took the oath of citizenship in front of friends and family members on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.
Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, applauded the service members during his opening remarks on earning their U.S. citizenship status.
"What stands out for me is the outstanding service all of you have provided to this great country," said Kraft. "You made a commitment long before the oath you will take today, that you would be willing to give your lives in defense of this nation. There can be no greater commitment, and certainly no greater sacrifice."
In addition to Kraft, the official party for the ceremony was comprised of Dr. Emilio Gonzalez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Rear Adm. Leendert R. Hering Sr., commander, Navy Region Southwest, Rear Adm. Mark W. Balmert, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 5, and Carolyn Muzyka, USCIS Western Region director.
Gonzalez delivered the keynote address and performed the official swearing-in by delivering the oath of citizenship. He also presented all 97 service members with their individual certificates of citizenship and congratulated them with an official handshake.
"Today, I will stand on the deck of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan in San Diego Harbor to welcome 97 service members as new citizens," said Gonzalez. "In total, more than 26,000 immigrants serving in our military have been naturalized since Sept. 11, 2001."
"We are committed to exhausting every effort to ensure that all military naturalization applications are processed expeditiously, so that service members receive this honor on behalf of a grateful nation," said Gonzalez.
Commissioned in 2003, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier and returned to San Diego July 6 from her maiden deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and maritime security operations. The ship is currently pierside in her homeport at Naval Air Station North Island.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.