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Portsmouth, Va - Sailors, with hope in their heart and papers in hand, confidently stride into an office that holds the key to their future as an American citizen. Upon entering, they go through a lengthy and often stressful process that ultimately sees them transition from immigrant to citizen following their Oath of Allegiance.
On the 236th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Sailors assigned to Naval Medical Forces Atlantic share their experiences of going through the naturalization process and reflect on the privilege of being an American citizen.
Personnel Specialist Seaman Recruit Viviana Huergogodoy, a Nieva-Huila, Columbia native, is a NMFL Sailor currently going through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen. Her mother first brought her family to the U.S. to study English when she was 16, and after receiving a residency within five years, she decided to join the military.
“I wanted to join the U.S. military because it is the best in the world,” said Huergogodoy, who is a pay and personnel administrator for the command. “Plus, I am grateful for the opportunities that the Navy has given me and hopeful to become a citizen.”
Others in the command have already completed the process and are fully naturalized citizens. Over the last five years, a total of over 5,500 Sailors became naturalized citizens through their service in the U.S. Navy and a total of over 33,000 throughout the Department of Defense have earned the privilege to become a citizen of the United States of America.
Ever since he was young, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Samuel Jean-Louis was interested in the medical field. As a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he knew that he wouldn’t have the same educational opportunities available to reach his aspirations, so he joined the U.S. Navy in a job that has the largest, most professionally diverse and highly decorated hospital enlisted corps to achieve his dreams.
“It’s been the best decision I’ve made,” explained Jean-Louis, who is the leading petty officer for the directorate for administration at NMFL. “Now I just want to give back … not only to be a good example for my kids and my family, but to also give back to this country and the Navy.”
To become a citizen through military service, the naturalization process for those eligible can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jordan Brown, a native of Kingston, Jamaica remembers the morning he became a citizen after completing his naturalization interview and the Oath of Allegiance and the feelings that came after when he could finally call himself a U.S. citizen.
“I got dressed and put on my Sunday best,” reminisced Brown with a smile, an administration action officer for the unit deployment cell at NMFL. “I walked into that office, and they interviewed me. I took a test, and I walked out of that office with a certificate. Then I went down to the immigration office, and I left it as a citizen. I still have that certificate with me to this day and I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I think of where I am now.”
To those going through the process, Jean-Louis shared words of wisdom.
“Do not give up,” he advised. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Once completed, the experience and reward will be all worth the effort. This is a great country and there are a lot of opportunities!”
Constitution Week, which is held Sept. 17-23, celebrates the enduring connection between Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, paying tribute to the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and those who have embraced U.S. citizenship.
Naval Medical Forces Atlantic (NMFL), headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, delivers operationally focused medical expertise and capabilities to meet Fleet, Marine and Joint Force requirements by providing equipment, sustainment and maintenance of medical forces during combat operations and public health crises.
Navy Medicine – represented by more than 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals – provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.
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